The listing: 100 Summit Circle, Westmount, Que.
Asking price: $15-million
Taxes: $72,000 (2020)
Lot Size: 36,120 square feet
Agent: Christina Miller (Profusion Realty, exclusive affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate)
In 1987, Lynne Kolber Halliday’s mother insisted she get married in June.
Her parents, Leo and Sandra, were preparing to tear down their California-style house at the peak of a mountain in Montreal’s Westmount neighbourhood and replace it with a 32-room bungalow. But first, they had to host a wedding.
About 130 chairs were lined up in the yard with an aisle marking the middle. After the official ceremony at noon, tables were setup around the pool, which was covered and transformed into a dance floor.
“It was very glittery,” Lynne says. “It was our Barbie and Ken wedding.” The following day, the couple had a second wedding in New York with their friends.
Many of the attendees were well-known Canadians, including former prime minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau and Charles Dutoit, former music director of the Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal. Lynne’s father, Leo, was appointed to the Senate by Trudeau in 1983 and served for 20 years, which included chairing the Senate Banking Committee. Trudeau and Leo were not just colleagues. They were close friends. On one occasion, they travelled across the Trans-Siberian Railway together and on another, they ventured to Vietnam.
Aside from his appointment as senator, Leo had an impressive portfolio. He was a trusted advisor to the Bronfman family, having met Charles Bronfman at McGill University, where they become lifelong friends. He also ran Cadillac Fairview Corporation and became an Officer of the Order of Canada, recognized for his fundraising efforts.
In January, just 10 days shy of his 91st birthday, Leo passed away. His wife Sandra died in 2001. The couple left their house in Montreal to their children Lynne and Jonathan.
The house today
The Kolbers were entertainers, and their house matched their hospitality. When guests stepped inside of their 940-square-foot entryway, they were greeted by a 20-foot ceiling with an oculus skylight that flooded the foyer with sunshine. The grand reception could accommodate 200 people. They never rented plates, according to Lynne, indicating that dinner parties and fundraisers were not rare occasions. Leo was the Liberal Party’s chief fundraiser and often held events for Montreal’s universities, hospitals and Jewish causes.
There were family celebrations at the house, too. For Jonathan’s bar mitzvah, they turned their four-car garage, elevated with geothermal heating and an elastomeric membrane roof, into a disco. Actor Harry Belafonte attended and danced with Leo, both men gripping roses in their mouths, pretending to be toreadors.
Before Leo and Sandra got married, they took dance lessons and frequently broke into the pasodoble, a fast-paced Spanish double step dance, at events. Their guests also seemed enthusiastic about performing. Frequent attendee Brian Mulroney was known for busting into song, belting out the lyrics to Irish Eyes were Smiling, Lynne recalls.
The Kolber’s Westmount home, across from Summit Woods, was equipped with a host’s every need: a chef’s kitchen with a breakfast room, updated four years ago; a butler’s pantry connecting the kitchen to the formal dining room for seamless catering; a 1,000-bottle wine cellar; and a media room.
The best feature
When Leo and Trudeau would share an intimate conversation, they sat in the “Big Red Room,” as Lynne calls it. A dish of caviar often sat between them as a flame crackled in the fireplace and snow matted the windows.
When the Kolbers weren’t entertaining, the Big Red Room was where they lived. The walls were painted with a rich red, adding ambient warmth to the room. Bookcases framed the walls. A mix of taupe leather couches and intricately woven brocade sofas were perched throughout.
The Big Red Room was also known as the library. Lynne’s mother was always reading fiction, and her dad was always reading non-fiction, anything on the topic of Israeli and American politics, or the mafia. Beautiful, heavy books containing Canadian photography sat out on coffee tables.
Inside the library is the house’s best feature, according to Christina Miller, the Kolber’s real estate broker. Beside a wall of books is a bar counter, which opens up to a sleek black room stacked with wine and whisky glasses. But the true hidden component is a secret: inside of the bar there is a pocket wall that opens onto the grand reception room.
So far, a wide range of potential buyers has viewed the house, says Ms. Miller. She could see people who are living in condominiums but seeking more privacy during the pandemic being interested in the home. There are only two houses on the block, providing coveted space.
On the other hand, she’s toured families who have young kids and couples who haven’t even started families yet. The house is just 10 minutes from downtown Montreal, an ideal location for parents working in the city. In her view, the buyers could be anywhere from 35 to 75 years old.
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