Inside James Dean’s Homes Across America

James Dean left pulling a funny face and his infant cousin along rows of plants in a blackandwhite image of a farm

James Dean, left, with his cousin in a 1944 image. “I never knew any different than him being here,” said Winslow, who was born three years after Dean joined the family in Fairmount. “Jimmy was always there, just like a big brother.”

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

“Although he knew who his dad was and so forth, I think he considered this his home,” Winslow said. After the death of Dean’s father in 1995, most of the late actor’s belongings were left to Winslow. The majority of his things have been donated to the local Fairmount museum. Dean was laid to rest in Fairmount’s Park Cemetery.

James Dean pouring out bag into trough for a group of calves in blackandwhite still

Dean feeding the calves on the Fairmount farm.

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Santa Monica, California

After graduating from high school in 1949, Dean moved back out West to live with his father and stepmother and started at Santa Monica College, majoring in pre-law. He later transferred to UCLA and changed his major to drama. It’s said that he bounced around from place to place in Southern California during his time as a student, boarding at the Sigma Nu fraternity house and rentals with friends for short stints before he dropped out to pursue his acting career full-time in 1951.

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New York

Dean was a rehearsal assistant testing stunts for the game show Beat the Clock while he worked to launch his career as an actor in the Big Apple. Living in Manhattan was a bit of an adjustment for the young aspiring star. “At first New York overwhelmed me,” Dean once said, per an April 1996 AD story. “I was so confused that I strayed only a couple of blocks from my hotel off Times Square, to go to the movies.” He spent several years in the early ’50s floating between Midtown rentals until he moved into an Upper West Side apartment building.

The actor’s fifth-floor walkup unit at 19 West 68th Street had room enough for only a daybed, a built-in desk, and a hot plate. Photos of Dean lounging in the cozy, modest residence show a wall lined with bookshelves and a single porthole window. The dwelling reportedly had no kitchen.

Return to California

Dean left New York for California in the spring of 1954 after being cast in as Caleb Trask in Elia Kazan’s East of Eden. The Little River Inn in coastal Northern California claims he stayed in their Ocean View deluxe suite during production. He also lived in the guest quarters of a circa 1927 Spanish-style Hollywood Hills abode for a year or two, around when he was cast in Rebel Without a Cause.

The actor—who was also an aspiring race car driver, with dreams of competing in the Indy 500—died tragically in a car crash along Southern California’s US Route 466 before he could put down firmer roots anywhere. His early death is an outsized part of the storytelling around Dean, with many lamenting the larger-than-life career that could have been, but the legacy he built in several short years to cement himself as a generational talent suggests he had little left to prove.

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