Hallelujah!

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You can now buy Leonard Cohen's childhood home - for $1.4 million

After he was captivated by k.d. lang's stirring rendition of the Leonard Cohen classic "Hallelujah" during the Olympic Opening Ceremonies, a Montreal man turned to his wife.

"Do you realize that it's quite possible that the lyrics for 'Hallelujah' were composed in this very room?" Marcel Guay asked Mary as they were curled up in their den, watching the performance on TV.

Marcel Guay and his wife, Mary, outside their house which was also the house where singer composer Leonard Cohen grew up in Montreal. The home is being offered for sale for $1.4-million. - Photo by The Canadian Press

Montreal -

After he was captivated by k.d. lang's stirring rendition of the Leonard Cohen classic "Hallelujah" during the Olympic Opening Ceremonies, a Montreal man turned to his wife.

"Do you realize that it's quite possible that the lyrics for 'Hallelujah' were composed in this very room?" Marcel Guay asked Mary as they were curled up in their den, watching the performance on TV.

It's possible he was right.

On that February night the Guays were nestled in their cosy, upstairs nook, which once served as Cohen's music room in his childhood home.

Now that the last of their grown children has moved out, the Guays have decided to sell the house where one of the world's most influential artists grew up.

That means you, too, can enjoy a moment like the one the Guays experienced.

The asking price? $1,395,000.

The semi-detached, Victorian house rests on a tranquil street, backing onto a leafy park which rolls down a slope of Mont Royal and offers a sweeping view of the city skyline with mountains in the horizon.

"Some of (Cohen's) early poetry and some of his early writings were done right here, so the area, presumably, inspired him in some way or another," said Guay, who bought the property in the wealthy Montreal enclave of Westmount five years ago.

"It's a very pleasant setting, so you can imagine how that might be."

The building has since become something of a shrine for fans seeking a window into the life of the mysterious Cohen.

Weekends sometimes bring fans who gawk from the road as they slowly shuffle by, while others pose for photos in the front yard, Guay said.

"We've had people knock on the door and ask to confirm in fact if it was Leonard Cohen's house, and have asked us if they could have a peek inside," he said.

"We don't really encourage that too much.

"It's a museum for them, they come by to see Leonard Cohen's old digs."

Due to the attention, selling the former abode of a legend does have its drawbacks.

Since the home was put on the market in February, several people have duped Guay's real estate agent by posing as potential buyers just so they could get inside.

One American couple told Guay's realtor they planned to move their shipping business from New York to Montreal. During their visit, they took photos.

The real-estate agent later discovered that they eventually posted the snapshots in a chat room on Cohen's website.

In that online posting, the visitor bragged about how the realtor drove them past Cohen's old synagogue and his former high school.

"It was not just a trip - it was a pilgrimage to the sacred ground of Leonard's hometown," the person wrote on leonardcohen.com.

"I felt so blessed just to be able to walk up and down the same streets that he has walked on - I wanted to kiss the sidewalk."

Guay, who initially figured the 85-year-old home's history would add some appeal, is taking the nuisances in stride.

"You never know what's going to happen once it becomes, as it were, a famous house," he said with a smile.

The renowned singer-songwriter, poet and author is believed to have lived in the Belmont Avenue residence until the mid-1950s, when he was about 20 years old.

Cohen's mother remained in the five-bedroom house for many years after. Following her death, the family sold the property in 1997 and the new owner, John Baker, found Cohen's music room much the way the bard had left it.

In the trove of items, Baker found one of Cohen's guitars and original sheet music, including those for two of his most famous songs: "Suzanne" and "Hallelujah."

"Hallelujah" is one of the most-revered, and most-covered, songs of all time.

Baker, who later sold the house to Guay, contacted Cohen to see if he wanted his stuff back.

"And Leonard Cohen said, 'Oh, don't bother - just throw them out,'" Guay said.

Baker, of course, still has the memorabilia, Guay said.

In his 1963 novel "The Favourite Game," Cohen immortalized the window in the tiny sunroom, which is connected to the old music room.

"The window gave over the slope of Murray Park, across the commercial city, down to the Saint Lawrence, American mountains in the distance," he wrote.

The 75-year-old Cohen still keeps a residence in Montreal, in a neighbourhood several kilometres away.

Guay, a Westmount resident for the last 35 years, says the reclusive artist hasn't paid a visit to the house since he bought it in 2005.

The home has undergone major renovations and Cohen probably wouldn't even recognize it, he added.

While Cohen might not come around anymore, Guay says he's left a mark in the area.

"His ghost wanders around this neighbourhood. A number of people in the neighbourhood remember him well."

Organizations: Victorian house, Mont Royal, Leonard's

Geographic location: Montreal, Westmount, New York Belmont Avenue Murray Park Saint Lawrence

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  • Keith
    July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    Really? Sheet music for Hallelujah ? He left the house in the mid-fifties and first recorded the song in the mid-eighties... Hmmm...

  • Keith
    July 01, 2010 - 19:45

    Really? Sheet music for Hallelujah ? He left the house in the mid-fifties and first recorded the song in the mid-eighties... Hmmm...