The tiny, otherwise unremarkable house in a Valley Village backyard where Marilyn Monroe (then Norma Jeane Dougherty) was living when she began her ascent towards megafame was supposed to be considered for city landmark status this week (along with its front house), but instead it was razed by the owner, who wants to build condos. The Daily News says it wasn't looking like the landmarking was going to be approved anyway—even the director of the Office of Historic Resources says that the house wasn't really significant enough to be saved—but the demolition was probably illegal and has deeply upset neighbors and Marilyn fans.
The house's connection to a pre-Marilyn Norma Jeane is strong, but came too early, according to officials. In 1944, a 17-year-old Norma Jeane moved in to live with her in-laws while her husband James Dougherty was off serving in the Navy. She had a job inspecting parachutes—it was World War II—and it was at that job that she was first asked to pose as a pin-up for "morale-boosting military magazines."
She moved out of the house in 1945, went on to divorce Dougherty, and eventually become Marilyn Monroe. But she wasn't famous enough at the house at Valley Village: "There are hundreds, if not thousands, of houses associated with celebrities," says the director of the Office of Historic Resources, and saving them all isn't possible.
The developer/property owner, Joe Salem of Hermitage Enterprises LLC, was seeking permits to demolish the two old houses on the lot as early as last year. From the city's permit search website, it looks like he received them in April. But advocates say Salem violated a law that requires owners post a 30-day public notice before demolishing any building over 45 years old. They also say he tore down the house in a kind of sweet spot after the announcement of the landmark hearing but before the Cultural Heritage Commission could do anything to prevent razing the house, "a common practice across the city." (Generally, demolition is forbidden while the commission considers a nomination.)
Meanwhile, a Redfin listing associated with the address of the now nonexistent house is advertising five "luxury townhomes" and a rendering of the boxiness potentially to come, with a price of $999,999. The listing copy begins by saying, "Demolition was completed."
· Former Marilyn Monroe house in Valley Village razed while poised for potential preservation [LADN]
· 5258 Hermitage Ave., Valley Village, CA 91607 [Redfin]
· Marilyn Monroe's Brentwood House Hits the Market [Curbed LA]
· WeHo Compound Where Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe Once Lived [Curbed LA]
· Marilyn Monroe [Curbed LA]