Grace Kelly: A Philadelphian at Heart

Jennifer Munch

Grace Kelly. Just mentioning her name brings a twinkle to many peoples' eyes. She is most commonly remembered as a beautiful woman and a talented actress. However, there is more to Grace Kelly than her looks and career. She is a member of the Kelly family, whose roots can be traced back to the City of Brotherly Love- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The city of Philadelphia, in the 1920’s, was preparing for its Sequi-Centennial International Exposition. The Exposition was to be a commemoration of the nation’s 150th anniversary, opening on May 31, 1926. However, the celebration was met with many obstacles including rain (107 of the 184 days), poor attendance, and budget cuts. By the time that the exposition closed on November 6, a 5 million-dollar deficit had been established.1

However, the city did not experience complete failure during the 1920’s. Philadelphians were meeting much success in music, entertainment, and sports. The Mummers of South Philadelphia and Kennsington as well as jazz greats Bessie Smith and Lucky Roberts were making sweet music. Also, the opera companies and the Philadelphia orchestra were providing entertainment for the city. In the world of sports, the Philadelphia Athletics dominated the realm of baseball through their victory at the World Series in 1929. Adding to their fame, the team’s manager and owner, Connie Mack, was given the Philadelphia Award for 1929. Along with baseball, Philadelphia was also known for it’s Olympic oarsman, Jack Kelly. He won the single sculls at Antwerp in 1920, and it is with Mr. Kelly that we begin our story.2

Grace’s parents, John B. (Jack) Kelly and Margaret (Majer) Kelly met at the Turngemeide swimming pool, located at Broad Street and Columbia Avenue, in 1916. Mrs. Kelly was an athletic coach for coeds at the University of Pennsylvania and was taking part in a recreational swim at the pool. Jack, a member of the swim team at Turngemeide, saw Margaret for the first time and immediately fell in love. The two were married on January 30, 1924, at which point Mrs. Kelly converted to Catholicism- Jack was a devout Irish Catholic.3

On November 12, 1929, after only five years of marriage, Mrs. Kelly gave birth to her third child at Hahnemann Hospital.4 Older siblings were sister Peggy and brother John B. (Kell), and later Lizanne- the youngest of the Kellys.5

After the birth, Grace was brought home to her new place of residence at 3901 Henry Ave., in the East Falls section of Philadelphia. The house, often referred to as a mansion, was built by Grace’s father, a champion oarsman and prosperous bricklayer.6 Growing up, according to Mrs. Kelly, Grace was "a shy child, but there was a kind of inner tranquility and quiet resourcefullness."7 She was often taken ill with a cold or asthma, causing her mother to require that she stay indoors while her sisters and brother played outside.8

Upon arriving at the proper school age, Grace was sent to the Ravenhill convent school (1934), in the parish of Saint Bridget’s.9 She attended the school for nine years, until she transferred in 1943 to the Stevens School in Germantown. There, Grace finished her high school years and graduated in May 1947.10 As a student, Grace received very good grades, and is noted as "the brightest of the four Kelly children" by author Arthur H. Lewis.11

Although she was a bright student, little Grace was always interested in performing. A childhood friend, (formerly Alice Godfrey) Mrs. Charles Waters, Jr. of 218 Morlyn Ave, Bryn Mawr, believes that she took part in Grace’s stage debut. Grace and Alice, both age 6 at the time, played angels in a production that was written and directed by their older sisters. The Godfreys' basement served as their theater.12 However, Grace’s first real theatrical experience occurred at the age of 12. She played one of the leads in Don’t Feed the Animals, a play produced by the Old Academy Players in East Falls.13 "We’ve never had a kid like her," recalled Mrs. Ruth Emmert, a veteran member of the Players, in a newspaper interview.14 Her former fellow Players from the old Academy agree, saying that "no matter how sick she was, she always came to rehearsals."15

Grace went on to fulfill her dreams of stardom by attending the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. There, she worked to support herself by taking such jobs as a photographer’s model and an actress in television commercials.16 She posed for such companies as Ipana, beer ads, and Old Golds, for which she also did TV commercials.17

After graduating from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Grace performed in her first professional debut. The production was a revival of her Uncle George Kelly’s comedy, The Torch Bearers, at the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania (July 1949). A few months after her performance with the Playhouse in The Heiress, Grace made her Broadway debut. On November 16, 1949, at the Court Theatre, Grace Kelly played the captain’s daughter in The Father.18

Grace continued to work in live productions as well as often appearing in such television shows as The Philco Television Playhouse (NBC), Studio One (CBS), and The Hallmark Hall of Fame (NBC), among others.19 However, it was in 1950 when she landed her first movie role as "a woman bent on divorce" in 20th Century Fox’s Fourteen Hours.20 She continued to act in films, frequenting the screen in High Noon, Mogambo (1953), Dial M for Murder (1953), Rear Window, The Country Girl (1954), in which she won an Oscar, and High Society (1956), a musical adaptation of The Philadelphia Story.21

Then, on April 18, 1956, as if life couldn’t get any more glamorous for her, the young actress was wedded to Prince Rainier III of Monaco. The wedding was held at the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas, with the Bishop of Princedom, Monsignor Gilles Barthe, presiding. The couple met in Montecarlo during the filming of Grace’s 1954 movie, To Catch a Thief (Paramount Pictures). Her "long blond hair and beautiful blue eyes took the prince" and it was at this point that the prince decided that he wanted Grace to be his princess.22

The royal couple, although reported by Lewis as not always being happy together,23 had three children during their marriage: Caroline (1957), Albert (1958), and Stephanie (1965).24 Princess Grace, along with her family, often traveled to Philadelphia in order to visit relatives or attend charity galas. In fact, in April of 1965, the royal family traveled to the U.S. for the wedding of her sister Peggy’s daughter, Margaret Ann (Meg) Davis to Richard F. Roe. The wedding was held at Saint Bridget’s Church in East Falls, and Princess Caroline performed as flower girl.25

However, on September 12, 1982, a tragedy occurred. Princess Grace and her daughter Stephanie were out for a drive on the streets of Monaco, when Grace suffered a stroke at the wheel. The automobile crashed, injuring Grace, age 52, and her 17-year-old daughter. The two women were taken hospital where it was determined that Princess Stephanie had suffered only a fractured neck vertebra. Unfortunately, Grace was not so lucky. Princess Grace was diagnosed as being brain dead, after which she was placed on life support. Approximately 30 hours after the accident (Tuesday, September 13th), the decision was made to remove the princess from life support, causing her to pass away minutes later. A funeral was held in Monaco on that Saturday, at which "royalty, entertainers, relatives, and friends from around the world arrived to pay their final respects."26

Back in Philadelphia, a memorial mass was being held in honor of the princess and former Philadelphian. It is estimated that 1,800 people attended the mass at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, located on the Parkway. Dignitaries and Kelly family members, who were unable to make the trek to Monaco, as well as members of the Philadelphia community, came to pay their respects to the cherished icon.27

Grace Kelly, native Philadelphian turned movie star turned princess, never forgot her where she came from. She loved her hometown and visited it often. But why was Princess Grace loved so much by her fellow Philadelphians? It was because she was a woman of deep and living faith, who always remembered where she came from."28



Historical Sites

Hahneman Hospital

Broad and Vine Streets

Hahneman Hospital, the site of Grace Kelly’s birth on November 12, 1929, is located on the corner of Broad and Vine Streets. It’s North Tower houses 226 patient rooms and is 19 stories high. The other tower is a 735 bed, 20-story high building.29

Hahneman Medical College and Hospital (currently named MCP Hahneman) was originally called the Homeopathic Medical College of Pennsylvania. Doctors Jacob Jeans, Walter Williamson, and Constantine Hering, who had it first built on Arch Street in 1848, founded it. A year later, the college moved to 11th and Filbert Streets. This is now the location of the Reading Terminal.30

In 1867 the Homeopathic Medical College of Pennsylvania split because of a faculty dispute, and as a result a second college was formed- the Hahneman Medical College. However, in 1869 the colleges reunited, keeping the Hahneman name.31

Hahneman, at the time of Grace Kelly’s birth, was one of the largest private hospitals in the United States. Along with being the first breed of skyscraper-type teaching hospital, it also had a steel skeleton, fireproofing, a telephone in each private patient’s room, a two-program radio outlet at each bedside, six high-speed elevators, and a nurse page station. The hospital currently boasts a large and extensive Emergency Department on the ground floor, parallel to the Vine Street Expressway. There is also a "Monty Hall-Variety Club" children’s Pavilion on the fourth floor (est. 1981).32

The Bucks County Playhouse

The State Theater of Pennsylvania

P.O. Box 313, 70 South Main Street

New Hope, PA 18938

(215) 862-2041 (Box Office)

As reported in the first half of this paper, Grace Kelly performed in her first professional debut at the Bucks County Playhouse. This first debut was in July of 1949 in the comedy The Torch Bearers, as well as a second appearance a few months later in The Father.33

The building itself was not always a theater. Originally, it was a grist mill named The Hope Mills. In the late 1700's, the mill burnt to the ground only to be rebuilt by local businessman, Benjamin Perry, in 1790. Perry named his building the New Hope Mills. This, by the way, is how the town of New Hope got its name.34

In the 1930's, the mill was purchased by a group that included Broadway composer Moss Hart. Renovations of the mill began in 1938 for the July 1, 1939 opening of the drama, Springtime for Henry, which starred the well-known actor, Edward Everett Horton. With it's first production, the reputation of the Playhouse began to grow to be known as "America's Most Famous Summer Theatre".35 Well known actors and actresses have graced it's stage, including June Lockhart, Robert Redford, Leslie Nielsen, Walter Matthau, Merv Griffin, and of course, Grace Kelly.36

Today, the Bucks County Playhouse is considered a "national landmark rich in theatrical history".37 It continues to reel out professional theatrical production, most of which are musicals. The Playhouse also has a Children's Theater series that runs from June through December.38

The Free Library of Philadelphia

19th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway

(215) 686-5322

On a Friday at 7:30p.m, in the beginning of March 1976, Grace Kelly attended a black tie event benefit for the library’s theater collection, which at the time was the second largest non-circulating collection in the country. The princess was there to present her deceased famous Uncle George’s plays and memorabilia to the theater collection. Many attended the event, run by theater collection librarian Geri Duclow. The attendees wanted a glimpse of "their princess" and to get a chance to greet her in the receiving line.39

The theater collection, to which the donation was made, also contains the Barrymore family bible and a set of Arch Street Theater programs that date back to 1860. The collection relies on donations, such as was made by the Kelly family, to keep it growing.40

The building itself was constructed in the Greek Revival style. Founded in 1891, the library has a grand entrance hall, a sweeping marble staircase, 30-foot ceilings, large reading rooms with long tables, and spiral staircases that lead to balconies.41 It is down the marble staircase that Princess Grace made her entrance at the black tie event in 1976.42

The Free Library of Philadelphia’s main branch is currently located at 1901 Vine Street, and has 54 branches in the surrounding neighborhoods.43 There are over three-quarters of a million cardholders who take out more than five million books each year.44

The theater collection, which has grown since Princess Grace’s donation, can still be accessed at the library. The web site, at which they can be located electronically, is

Saint Edmond's Home For Crippled Children

Rosemont, Pennsylvania

While in Philadelphia for a visit, Princess Grace was invited for tea at Saint Edmond's Home for the Crippled. She was invited by the woman's auxiliary, a group of Catholic laywomen who raise funds for the maintenance of the home. The auxiliary received it's charter in 1924.46

The home is for children ages 0 to 16 years. In the past, it was only for polio victims, however today the home is for children with great disabilities (mental and physical) which require costly facilities and high tech equipment. It was originally located at Haverford Avenue and 44th Streets in West Philadelphia. However, in 1957, the home was moved to Rosemont. The auxiliary furnished the new building and chapel through the use of their funds. The Roemont building is the location at which Princess Grace visited. 47


Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul

18th and Race Streets

(215) 561-1313

After the death of Princess Grace in September of 1982, a memorial Mass was held to honor her at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. The mass, said by Cardinal John Krol, was a 75 minute long traditional Catholic service. It was performed at the main altar, which is placed beneath the cathedral's towering domes. The cathedral contains nine other altars besides the main one.48

In attendance at the mass was Mayor Green, city managing director W. Wilson Goode, Police Comissioner Morton Solomon, former Mayor Frank L. Rizzo, as well as other current and former city officials. There were also thirty of the princess's nieces, nephews, and close friends at the service, along with John B. Kelly III and his fiancée Karen Spencer.49

Today, the cathedral is recognized as the basilica of the archdiocese of Philadelphia, as well as a place of worship for the areas 1.4 million Roman Catholics. The cathedral, which is topped by a large copper dome, was built in the Italian Renaissance style between 1846 and 1864. Constantino Brumidi, the same man who painted the U.S. Capitol's dome, decorated the interior. Beneath the alter are buried six Philadelphia bishops and archbishops.50



1Arthur P. Dudden, "The City Embraces 'Normalcy', 1919 - 1929," in Russell F. Wiegly, ed., Philadelphia: A 300-Year History (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1982), 571-575.

2 Ibid, 592-593.

3Fredrick A. McCord, "A Perfect Swan Dive at Turgnemeide Pool led to Wedding of Cover Girl and Contractor," Philadelphia Bulletin, 14 January 1956.

4Arthur H. Lewis, Those Philadelphia Kellys with a Touch of Grace (New York: William Morrow & Company, Inc., 1977) 264.

5"The Girl in the White Gloves," Time, 31 January 1995, 47.

6Mrs. John B. Kelly, "Grace Walked to Dance with her First Date When She was 13, Her Mother Remembers," Philadelphia Bulletin, 16 January 1956.

7Charles Moritz, ed., Current Biography 1977 (New York: H.M. Wilson Company, 1977) 172.

8 Ibid, 172.

9 Time, 47.

10 "Biography," n.d., <wysiwyg://126/>   (12 September 1999).

11Lewis 265.

12Rex Polier, "Grace Kelly, On Top of Movie World at 24, Heads Home for a Short Visit," The Sunday Bulletin, 23 May 1954.

13Current Biography 1977, 172.

14 Polier 1954.

15 Ibid.

16 Current Biography 1977, 172.

17 Time, 47.

18 Current Biography 1977, 172.

19 Ibid, 172.

20 Richard Huber, "They all Gambled on Grace Kelly," Redbook Magazine, November 1954.

21 Biography.

22 Alejandro Maceiras, "Grace Kelly: A Princess of Films," n.d. <> (12 September 1999).

23 Lewis 268.

24 Maceiras.

25"A Flower Girl: Princess Caroline," Philadelphia Bulletin, 28 April 1965.

26 "Rainier Ended Wife’s Life Support after Brain Death, Doctor Says," Philadelphia Bulletin, 18 September 1982.

27 Joyce Gemperlein, "For Grace, A Eulogy to her Values," Philadelphia Bulletin, 18 September 1982.

28 Beth Gillin, Tom Torok, and Linda Loyd, "To her Friends and Fans Here, ‘Something Good has been Lost,’" The Philadelphia Inquirer, 15 September 1982.

29Phyllis Fisher & Lynne Schwartz, "Medical College of Pennsylvania," Jean Barth Toll & Mildred S. Gillam, e.d., Invisible Philadelphia (New York: Atwater Kent Museum, 1995) 743-744.

30Ibid, 742-743.

31Ibid, 743.

32Ibid, 743-744.

33Michael Naylor, "A Brief History of the Bucks County Playhouse…," 15 November 1999. (17 November 1999).






39Phyllis Stein, "How’s This for a Benefit?," Philadelphia Bulletin, 29 February 1976.


41Fodor’s Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Dutch Country with Buck’s County, Gettysburg, and Valley Forge, 10th edition (New York: Fodor’s Travel Publications, inc., 1998) 58

42Stein, 1976.

43"Free Library of Philadelphia," 12 May 1998, <> (28 October 1999).

44Toll & Gillam, 904.

45Free Library of Philadelphia.

46Anne W. Breidendtein, "Saint Edmond's Home For Crippled Children, Women's Auxillary," in Jean Barth Toll & Mildred S. Gillam, e.d., Invisible Philadelphia (New York: Atwater Kent Museum, 1995) 405.

47Ibid, 405.

48Gemperlein, 1A - 2A.

49Ibid, 1A - 2A.

50Fodor's Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Dutch Country with Buck's County, Gettysburg, and Valley Forge, 57.


"Biography." n.d. <wysiwyg://126/ 8255/biograph.html> (12 September 1999).

Fodor’s Philadelphia and the PA Dutch Country with Bucks County, Gettysburg, and Valley Forge. 10th ed. New York: Fodor’s Travel Publications, Inc., 1998.

"Free Library of Philadelphia." 12 May 1998. <> (28 October 1999).

Huber, Richard. "They all Gambled on Grace Kelly." Redbook, November 1957.

Lewis, Arthur H. Those Philadelphia Kellys with a Touch of Grace. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1977.

Maceiras, Alejandro. "Grace Kelly: A Princess of Films" n.d. <http://www.geocities.Com/Hollywood/Theater/6600/page1.html> (12 September 1999).

Moritz, Charles, e.d. Current Biography 1977. New York: H.M. Wilson Company, Inc., 1977.

Naylor, Michael. "Bucks County Playhouse." 15 November 1999. <> (17 November 1999).

Philadelphia Bulletin, 23 May 1954 – 18 September 1982.


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