Hamilton's house on the hill for sale
April 08, 2009
The Hamilton Spectator
(Apr 8, 2009)
He dreamed too big, ran too hard. Now Guillaume Mercier must find his way back to a smaller life. So his stone-and-timber castle on Garth Street is for sale.
About five years ago, people on the West Mountain watched in amazement as the house began to rise over the rooftops of neighbouring bungalows.
Mercier, who's in landscape and construction in Quebec, explained then that he was doing it for love.
He and his girlfriend had moved into a house in Montreal and planned to raise a family there. But a sudden tragedy interrupted the relationship and the girlfriend moved to Hamilton to live with her family.
Mercier was not ready to let the romance die. He bought the little house at 824 Garth because it sat on a double lot. Then he set to work.
And that is where the story left off, a mansion in the making.
Now people have seen the For Sale sign. They want to know what happened.
We're standing in the Great Room. Overhead are beefy two-tonne pine timbers, 10 metres long. Mercier, 36, says they're from the woodlot at his home on the St. Lawrence, about an hour east of Montreal.
He knew bringing those long trees down the 401 could buy him all kinds of headaches with the authorities. So he left Quebec about 11 p.m. and drove through the dark. He did it again with a second load of logs.
He hauled in 25 tonnes of handsome sandstone, too. It was left over from a job he did in Mont Tremblant for Leo Strolovitch, fashion czar, one of Canada's richest men. He gave the stone to Mercier, who trucked it here.
Mercier worked feverishly. "I had a double life," he says, "making those nine-hour drives over and over." Earning a living in Montreal, building a castle here.
This was not helpful for his peace of mind or for the relationship with his girlfriend.
"We were always living in the dust," Mercier says. "A couple of years ago, she said she wanted to leave."
He says they parted amicably and still talk. She confirms that.
"The reason to build the house was gone," Mercier says. "But when you start something, you should finish it."
He worked at it in a solitary way, whenever he could, dinners alone at day's end. He couldn't afford to have somebody else do the work.
"I realized I pushed my limits too far. I accumulated lots of stress. I wanted to explode."
Then he did. The Spectator carried a brief account of the incident last December, but Mercier was not named.
"I wanted to get attention that night and I went under the light," he says. That shining light happened to be Roseland Volkswagen on Guelph Line in Burlington. He smashed into five cars, then crashed through the dealership's front doors.
Mercier ended up in St. Joe's and was diagnosed with a bipolar disorder. He is now taking lithium and that's brought stability back to his life.
The next step in his recovery is to sell the house. As Mohawk College is nearby, he has no difficulty getting tenants. So the house pays for itself.
But Mercier's real home is that spread on the river outside Montreal. That's where he needs to be.
Asking price for the house on Garth is $499,700, but Mercier is ready to talk.
The real estate report lists six bedrooms, three bathrooms, lots of hardwood, 5,000 square feet. "One of a kind!" it declares.
"I drew the design," Mercier says. "I wanted the house to have it all."
He says only a couple of prospects have been through. "They said it's not finished enough. If someone sees it and likes it, I'll finish it. I'll say, 'What do you want?'"
As for his own dream here, it's now expired. Someone else needs to take over.
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So THAT was the guy that did that!