UPDATE MAY 2018: Prince Albert gives interview to NBC Today saying the Kelly House will remain a residence, crushing hopes for public access.
UPDATE FEBRUARY 2017: The Prince has big plans for the family home, including offices and a small Kelly Family museum.
UPDATE OCTOBER 2016: SOLD! Phillycurbed.com reports Grace Kelly’s childhood home sold this month for $775k — to Prince Albert of Monaco, her son, who plans to make it a home for his family when visiting the area, plus a small Kelly museum and office space for his environmental foundation.
(Original Post, July 15, 2016) Local realtor Heather Petrone-Shook takes us inside East Falls’ most famous listing — currently on the market for a million. Pics and first impressions from a neighborhood expert.
Three things you already know about the house Jack Kelly built — just know in your soul as true despite having no real knowledge. Ready? First, you know there’s a bar. Duh. Second, there’s gonna be a lot of brick (Kelly for Brickwork, after all).
And lastly, you know it’s going to feel special, somehow — this stately Colonial where politicians, artists, celebrities, royalty… generations of illuminati, in fact, gathered and grew up. How could it not?
Heather Petrone-Shook‘s recent walk-thru supports all our assumptions, plus she piles on intriguing details about this fascinating Fallser mansion.
“I wouldn’t exactly call it a ‘mansion’ but it is surprisingly huge inside,” Heather dished. And yes, it will need a thorough restoration after years of neglect and an unfortunate cat-hoarding situation in 2013. But on the plus side, since the decor has never been updated, it’s a virtual time capsule of the late 60’s – early 70’s, likely as Mrs. Kelly left it.
Shall we do a virtual walk-thru? Although Heather had permission to photograph the interior, she only snapped a few this first time around. She took a good hard look though, and spilled as much as she could remember. Our imaginations will have to fill in the rest…
So you walk into the Kelly House, and there’s a foyer with wide-plank hardwood flooring joined with wooden “buttons” — a style associated with Main Line & Chestnut Hill architecture.
In the foyer to the right, a doorway leads to a formal living room of massive proportions. This giant room runs the entire length of the house, and off that there’s an enclosed sun-porch facing McMichael Park.
To the left, double doors open up to a formal dining room. “Under the rug somewhere there’s a butler bell,” Heather told us, and also there’s a strip of original wallpaper still left.
Just off the dining room, the kitchen is broken down into three separate areas: the breakfast room, the butler’s pantry, and the actual kitchen where all the cooking is done.
“The house is cavernous with all kinds of rooms!” Heather’s mom Kathy chimed in from the next office. They both marveled at how huge the house was — much bigger than it looks from outside. “You can’t really see how deep the structure is from the road, but it goes way back,” Heather added,”The property, too: side yard, back yard, two-car garage…”
The home’s balanced, symmetrical design is also circular: you can walk from the dining room thru the kitchens, a powder room, and then you’re back in the foyer.
Same deal upstairs — the bedrooms are all connected, with thru-passages. On the second floor, the two front rooms facing Henry Avenue are two bedrooms that share a “Jack & Jill” bathroom in between (the two smaller windows). Each of these main bedrooms has its own dressing room, and one has its own bathroom.
Apparently, these two front “Master” bedrooms were for Mr. & Mrs Kelly (no judgement here, guys). Two more bedrooms and another bathroom fit in up here, too, bringing the 2nd Floor Total to: 4 bedrooms, 2 dressing rooms, 3 baths. Moving on…
At the top of the house’s main staircase, there’s another stairway leading to the top floor, with three bedrooms and two baths overlooking the yard below (which had tennis courts back in the day).
THE BEST PART
Heather’s favorite feature of all — the Kelly House basement: “A real ratskeller!” Kathy called it, very dark and heavy and masculine.
The first thing you notice down here? Kelly red brick. Everywhere.
Like nothing Heather had seen before — all four walls are solid brick, “Not brick facing, not half-bricks glued on the wall, but real bricks. All the way around! The room feels… So. Solid. Like something medieval.”
On the left, there’s a grand gathering area with a fireplace. On the right, swinging doors lead to a long bar of deep, rich wood (probably mahogany or cherry) — with the original brass foot rail, too. Behind an old wooden door at the back of the bar: a hidden refrigerator.
“You could feel the energy here. I could totally imagine how the men would gather here after dinner, after the women had retired to their salons. There’s such a presence here. Imagine all the deals that went down, all the political stuff…”
Indeed, the Kelly family is like Philly’s version of the Kennedy’s. Princess Grace was just one of a whole clan of VIP’s: politicians, Olympians, a Pulitzer-prize winning playwright, ground-breakers, and of course, an Oscar-winning actress (before she took the crown). How do you put a price on provenance like that?
Heather feels the house’s $1 million asking price is “an aggressive number” — but who knows? To a Kelly Family fan, this home with so many original features still in tact would be priceless.
But for Heather’s out-of-town clients who asked her to look at the place for them, the house’s history was of no interest whatsoever. “I told them it was Grace Kelly’s childhood home and they said ‘OK. Who’s Grace Kelly?‘” To them, it’s just an overpriced house in need of repair.
The thing is, no one ever knows the true “market value” of anything until it goes on the market. Time will tell…
Meanwhile, we share Heather’s hope that the Kelly House can become a museum, or at least a meticulously-restored B&B. We’d all love to see the house returned to its old grandeur once again, and honor our local Kelly legends.
MEMORIES OF THE KELLY HOUSE? Much of East Falls still remembers Grace and the rest of the Kelly clan. We frequently read online comments from neighbors who recall stories from Ravenhill, Women’s Medical/MCP, trick-or-treating at the Kelly House, making repairs and deliveries, etc.
Please share anecdotes, rumors, hear-say, whatever (!) in the comments below or email us so we can add your info to the house’s history, and maybe attract investors who’d like to help preserve Kelly Family origins in East Falls.
Big thanks to Heather Petrone-Shook (Long and Foster) and Kathy Petrone of Joseph D. Petrone Real Estate for recapping their walk-thru, and sharing Kelly House photos. PS More pics in Curbed Philly’s slideshow.