The Colonial-style Kelly House has been a point of pride for residents of the Philadelphia neighborhood of East Falls for decades. The stately brick home was built around the time of Princess Grace’s birth in 1928 and sits on 69 acres of land with garden areas. Now, though, Philadelphians have another reason for celebration: the home is back in the hands of the family who made it famous. With his acquisition of the home in 2016, Prince Albert II of Monaco has endeavored to recreate the warm environment where both he and his mother, Princess Grace, made beautiful memories throughout their lives. In an interview with People in 2018, Prince Albert stated “The house was very beautiful and very special to our family”. If the walls of the Kelly house could talk, they’d have quite the story to tell.
The house was built by Grace’s father, John B. Kelly, a prominent Philadelphian businessman (maybe you’ve heard of Kelly for Brickwork?), politician and three-time Olympic gold-medalist in rowing. Grace literally grew up in the house that her father built with her siblings Peggy, John Jr. (or Kell), and Lizanne before moving to New York to pursue her acting career. The house, with its many nooks and crannies, provided a refuge for the quiet Grace, who sometimes needed a break from her boisterous family. Once her sister Lizanne locked her in an upstairs closet as a prank, but Grace stayed in there for hours, contentedly playing with her dolls–she was probably pleased with the peace and quiet! The house continued to play a prominent role in Grace's life as her fame grew. The fever pitch of its notoriety was when Prince Rainier III visited the home in 1956 and announced his and Grace’s proposal, with film crews on hand to capture the momentous day. The formal dining room where this moment was captured was truly fit for a Prince (and future Princess)! Even after moving to Monaco, Princess Grace made it a point to return to Philadelphia and bring her children to the place she grew up. In an interview with Hoda Kotb on the Today Show, Prince Albert fondly recalls trips to the Kelly House because they meant that he didn’t have to share a room with his sisters–a big thrill when he was young, a sentiment which many of us can surely empathize with.
However, after Princess Grace’s family sold the home in 1973, it was purchased by a lady named Marjorie Bamont who lived there for more than 40 years and the home sadly fell into disrepair. When it was put back on the market in 2016, Prince Albert II knew he had a chance to obtain a crucial piece of his mother’s legacy and submitted the winning bid for the property. Owning the home was exciting, but this was only the first step; he had big plans to restore the home to its former glory.
Prince Albert II wanted to recreate the house how he–and his mother–had known it. He worked with designers and family members, poring over old photographs of the home's interior and tracking down original furniture pieces when possible. Some of the house’s most unique features had stayed miraculously intact even as it passed among multiple owners. One upstairs linen closet door was used to document the heights of the Kelly children each year, including Grace’s beginning in 1931 when she was two years old. This door was never painted over and the marks remained. Some other memorable features were lovingly recreated, such as the in-home bar with a rowing theme, a reference to John B. Kelly’s and Kell's prowess in the sport.
There were a lot of possibilities for this restored property; there was talk of making it a museum, and it surely would have attracted Princess Grace fans from all across the globe. However, Prince Albert II opted for a more private option, using the house as a residence for his family when they visit the United States, as well as office space for the Prince Albert II Foundation. . Princess Grace often fretted about her children’s privacy in the inevitable paparazzi spotlight, and it is clear that this value of privacy was instilled in her children as well. However, with the clamoring of much popular demand, when the renovations were completed in 2018, Prince Albert II gave the Today Show an exclusive tour of the house, giving the country a window into part of his family history. This piece included a 3-D tour of the upstairs of the house, which includes Princess Grace’s childhood bedroom.
Though it may be a private residence, the Kelly House still has a prominent place in Philadelphia history. A historical plaque outside broadcasts its significance to all who pass, and travel guides for the region note the walking and biking trails that offer the best views of the well-known house. True to his philanthropic spirit, Prince Albert II has opened the house up to local causes. In 2021, a Philadelphia animal shelter filmed a piece there that was used as part of the annual Broadway Barks benefit, an event that raises awareness of adoptable shelter pets across the country. Prince Albert II told Today that preserving the house was important because “it’s a big part of our family’s history.” With the restoration efforts, the Kelly family can keep the spirit and passions of Princess Grace alive for generations to come.