Michèle Morgan, French actress for RKO Radio Pictures, had architect Robert Byrd design and J. F. Wadkins build the luxury home resembling an early 19th-century European style farmhouse. The house was completed in 1941, with an address of 10050 Cielo Drive. Beverly Hills, California. By the end of World War II, Morgan had returned to France and in 1946 Lillian Gish moved in with her mother while filming Duel in the Sun (1946).
Rudolph Altobelli, a music and film industry talent manager, bought the house for $86,000 in the early 1960s (equivalent to US$700,000 in 2017) and often rented it out. Residents included Cary Grant and Dyan Cannon (it was their honeymoon nest in 1965), Henry Fonda, George Chakiris, Mark Lindsay, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Samantha Eggar, and Olivia Hussey. Charles Manson visited the house in late 1968, when it was occupied by couple Terry Melcher (the son of actress Doris Day) and Candice Bergen with roommate/talent-manager Roger Hart. The couple split in early 1969, with Melcher relocating to Malibu.
In February 1969, Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate began renting the home from Altobelli. On August 9, 1969, the home became the scene of the murders of Tate, Wojciech Frykowski, Abigail Folger, Jay Sebring, and Steven Parent at the hands of the Manson “Family”. William Garretson, Altobelli’s caretaker and an acquaintance of Parent, lived in the guest house behind the main house and was unaware of the murders until the next morning, when he was taken into custody by police officers who had arrived at the scene. He was later cleared of all charges.
Altobelli moved into the house just three weeks after the murders and resided there for the next 20 years. During an interview on ABC’s show 20/20, he said that while living there, he felt “safe, secure, loved and beauty.” He sold the property for $1.6 million in 1989 (equivalent to $3.2 million in 2017).