When Philadelphia-born Grace Kelly married into European royalty in 1956, it was a crowning moment for a family whose legacy had been intertwined with Penn before she was even born.
Now, the Northwest Philadelphia estate where Kelly grew up is up for sale. The house in the city’s East Falls neighborhood was listed last week for $1 million, according to brokerage firm Redfin, which is overseeing the listing.
It was in this house that Kelly, then a 26-year-old Oscar-winning actress, accepted a marriage proposal from Prince Rainier III of Monaco, ruler of a tiny city-state on the French coast with 142 hereditary titles, in December 1955.
Born in Center City to one of Philadelphia’s most famous Irish-American families, Kelly enjoyed a brief but successful career in Hollywood that made her one of the most recognizable film stars of the 1950s. In just six years, she garnered two Golden Globe Awards and an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1955. She routinely worked alongside the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Ava Gardner, Clark Gable and Frank Sinatra.
Kelly met Prince Rainier during the 1955 Cannes Film Festival in France — they were engaged by the end of the year. At her husband’s insistence, Kelly retired from acting and prepared to move permanently to Europe. After a brief civil ceremony at the Prince’s Palace of Monaco, the couple were married on April 19, 1956, in a televised church wedding. An estimated 30 million people watched as Philadelphia’s Grace Kelly became Her Serene Highness the Sovereign Princess of Monaco.
The Kelly family, whose prominence in Philadelphia has been compared to the Kennedys, was already de facto royalty to the city’s Irish community. Her father, John B. Kelly, won three Olympic Gold Medals in rowing before starting a successful bricklaying and construction company. Active in local politics, he was the Democratic candidate for mayor in 1935 and narrowly missed election as Philadelphia’s first Catholic mayor.
Her mother Margaret Katherine Majer Kelly rose to fame in her own right as Penn’s first-ever women’s athletics coach. Majer joined Penn’s athletics department in 1921 and within three years had organized Penn’s first teams in women’s basketball, gymnastics, softball and swimming. She also secured funding for a new women’s tennis court at the corner of 34th and Walnut Streets, according to Majer’s biography on the University Archives and Records Center’s website.
She later retired from her position after marrying Kelly’s father in 1924. Grace, born five years later, was their third child.
Two of Kelly’s siblings would follow in their parents’ athletic footsteps at Penn. Her older brother John Kelly Jr., who inherited their father’s rowing talent, graduated in 1950 from the College, where he was on the varsity crew team, president of the Kappa Sigma fraternity and a member of the Sphinx Senior Society, according to his University Archives and Records Center biography. He completed in the 1948 Olympics in rowing while still a Penn student, and eventually went on to become president of the U.S. Olympic Committee, according to his 1985 obituary in The New York Times.
Kelly Drive near Boathouse Row, where Penn’s rowing program is based, is named after him.
Kelly’s sister Lizanne, who was captain of the Penn women’s hockey team, graduated from Penn in 1955, according to her 2009 obituary in the Philadelphia Inquirer. She named her own child, Grace, after her famous crowned sister.
Grace Kelly died in 1982 from injuries sustained in a car crash. Her son, Albert, is the current Prince of Monaco.
The Kelly family lived in in the East Falls house until 1973, when it was sold to the current listed owner, Marjorie Bamont. Bamont died this past April, according to her obituary in the Philadelphia Sun Times.
Bamont made headlines in 2013 when law enforcement officers from the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals charged her with multiple counts of animal cruelty and seized her 15 pets, including 14 cats, from the house.
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