Inside the 'Social Network' house

August 28, 2012: 1:25 PM ET
The real Facebook house
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

The dining room is now a 'war room,' the living room has a desk that's supported entirely by cases and cans of Diet Coke, and there's a Nerf gun rack for daily, 2 a.m. fights.

It's the Palo Alto, Calif., house Mark Zuckerberg rented as a hacker's den for Facebook (FB) in the summer of 2004. The five-bedroom house was famously portrayed in the movie "The Social Network" as the place where the earliest Facebook coders hacked -- and partied -- and where the Silicon Valley giant really started to find its way.

Facebook is now long gone from the 819 La Jennifer Way home, but the house still looks and feels just like Zuckerberg left it -- like a frat house for hackers.

"People do enjoy being here," said Seth Bannon, CEO of Amicus, the startup currently occupying the house. "They do feel the ghosts of Facebook."

Related story: Facebook launches speedy new mobile app

The house is typically passed down from student to student at the Stanford Graduate School of Business during the academic year. But over the summer, business school students often sublet the house to a startup, which is how Facebook, and most recently Amicus, ended up there.

Amicus, a website that utilizes social networks to promote fundraising for non-profits, says the house's lore helps the company to channel the social networking ch'i.

"Great karma, good vibes," Bannon said in reference to the house.

Bannon set up the dining room the same way it appeared in its Facebook days, according to pictures he's seen. Bannon says he now sits in the same position Zuckerberg sat in at the work station, and the company is even using the same furniture.

It's not entirely the same setup as Facebook. Amicus has added some touches of its own to the house, including two Iron Man helmets (which all visitors -- including CNNMoney -- are required to try on), and a chess board to recreate the scene in Harvard Square where Bannon met colleague Ben Lamothe over a chess game.

Related story: 3 startups that want to make your life easier

The six entrepreneurs working in the house -- all male -- sometimes code by the pool, which had a Zip Line over it in the Facebook days. The Zip Line was attached to the house's chimney on one end, and to a nearby telephone pole on the other.

Landlords Tom and Mary Hamilton said they learned of Facebook's Zip Line when he went to the house to check on the pool in the back yard.

"The tenant at the door, looking some what distressed said something like, Oh, (pause), Oh (another pause), well I suppose you are going to want us to take the Zip Line down," said Mary. "My husband, Tom, told me that he didn't have any idea of what a Zip Line was. However, from the tenant's look of uncomfortableness ... Tom knew the answer had to be, 'Yes, right away please.'"

Pressing their luck, Amicus threw a party hoping to recreate the same scene: "Our party was BYO-Zipline, but nobody brought one" Bannon joked.

Mary Hamilton says that she and her husband were surprised at how young their tenants were in the summer of 2004, thinking they were Harvard graduate students -- not drop-outs. Tom said he often jokes that, had they known who their tenants actually were, they would have asked for the rent in stock options.

Facebook went public in May as the largest internet IPO in history, turning many of its earliest hackers into instant billionaires.

Like Facebook, Amicus will have to move out of the house before the start of the school year. And like Zuckerberg, Bannon is a Harvard drop out.

Any other similarities?

"Hopefully, there will be more," Bannon said.

Join the Conversation

Search for Jobs