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September 28, 2016

Grace Kelly's childhood home finally sells in East Falls 'love story'

Legacy of storied family and its Hollywood royalty lives on in proud Philadelphia neighborhood.

Real Estate Historic Homes
Grace Kelly Home in East Falls Shuvaev/Wikimedia Commons

The Kelly Family House in East Falls section of Philadelphia (3901 Henry Avenue) was built by John B. Kelly, Sr. in 1929. Grace Kelly, actress and Princess of Monaco grew up here.

The fabled home of late Hollywood sensation and nuptial royalty Grace Kelly has finally sold in East Falls, marking the exchange of a Philadelphia treasure that has captivated local residents for several generations. 

On Sept. 23, after about four months on the market, the Georgian brick house at 3901 Henry Avenue was purchased for $775,000, according to public records

"There were multiple offers on the property," said Patty Gernerd, the RE/MAX Legacy realtor who represented the home for Marjorie Bamont, its most recent owner, and the descendants of the Kelly family. 

In June, the property was listed for $1 million, but came down $150,000 in July and another $100,000 in August. A competitive bidding process ultimately pushed the sale price up by $25,000. 

"We started at a higher offer because we had no idea what the wow-factor would be," Gernerd said. "The people who put in offers really wanted it because of a combination of the name and the architecture."


Gate to yard at Grace Kelly home.

Constructed in 1935, the house was designed and built by three-time Olympic gold medalist John B. Kelly, Sr., a prominent Philadelphia bricklayer who nearly became the city's mayor that same year. The family was beloved by the neighborhood as a gregarious and magnanimous group of local dignitaries. Their nobility was a force that shaped the community. 

"There are so many incredible stories about how the Kellys would throw parties for adults and carnivals for the kids," Gernerd said. "The people around there are still very proud of the house and their neighborhood. They stopped by to see how things were going and were thrilled to know that someone would come in to enhance it."

Source/Public Domain

MGM studio promo photo of Grace Kelly.

Grace Kelly, who tragically passed away at 53 years old in 1982, grew up at the 4,000-square-foot property before launching on her stage acting career in New York City at the age of 20. She would go on to take starring roles in films including "The Country Girl," "High Noon," "To Catch a Thief," "Dial M for Murder," and "High Society," in which she joined Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. 

She retired from acting at the age of 26, marrying Prince Rainier III and becoming the Princess of Monaco. 

The home itself is unique, Gernerd said, because it has defied the trends of so many historic properties. 

"It's a solid-structured building with great bones in it," Gernerd said. "It was built correctly, and most of the originality is still there. The architecture of the time didn't get muted. When people came to look at it, the integrity remained and you could feel the flavor of when it was first built. That was the charm of the house overall."


Interior of Grace Kelly home.

That longevity goes against what Gernerd has seen elsewhere in similarly distinguished properties. 

"People frequently change things so that one room looks like it's from the 19th-century and another room is ultra-modern," Gernerd said. "This was so characteristic of the time. It really is a love story about the way old time houses came about and how families rose to esteem. The Kellys are such a respected name." 

Moving forward, Gernerd believes the home will require some repairs and enhancements, but the core features will remain intact. 


Interior of Grace Kelly home.

"It evolved the way it was supposed to evolve," Gernerd said. "It was so fortified. In that generation, craftsmanship was really outstanding. It still has original windows, original bricks. The archways are beautiful and the staircase is magnificent. Fix-ups will only take it to new heights."

Shuvaev/Wikimedia Commons

Grace Kelly's mother, Margaret Kelly, sold the house in 1970.

The home is situated on 0.69 acres and managed to survive some oddities during Bamont's period of ownership after 1975. It came under investigation in the Fall of 2013 when 15 cats — one of them dead — were discovered inside the eminent dwelling during the execution of a warrant. Late PSPCA director George Bengal was appalled by the extremity of the alleged animal cruelty, though it appeared to be connected to the severe mental health crisis of an octogenarian.  

Those are not the details that will endure as the property enters a new era, its legacy secured by the City of Philadelphia's dedication of an official plaque in 2012.

"It was just a special place and a privilege to represent this family," Gernerd said. "It's nice to have a part in Philadelphia's history. People still recollect seeing Grace wait for the bus and how sweet and kind she was."