"This is Long Island Sound in Cold Spring Harbor, wishing you a bonne nuit," says John Lennon in a bootleg copy of a home video now on YouTube, wishing good night to one and all from his getaway estate, Cannon Hill. Dressed in a white shirt and a painter's cap, sporting long hair and a full beard, he plays an acoustic version of "Dear Yoko" from his then-upcoming album, "Double Fantasy."
It is May 11, 1980, six months before the album's release and seven months before Lennon's murder outside his and wife Yoko Ono's Manhattan apartment building, The Dakota, at age 40.
Lennon, as he often did, was spending time at his waterfront retreat, purchased not long before for a reported $450,000.. Other videos show the former Beatle there with friends and with Ono and the couple's young son, Sean.
Cannon Hill would eventually serve as an oasis afterward, too, for his widow and child. Ono told Newsday's Wayne Robins in September 1984 that the two had spent much of the summer there. "This is the first summer I did this in a long time," she said. "Right after John died, I decided I didn't want to go back to Cold Spring Harbor. I went back once in awhile and I just couldn't deal with it, because of the memories."
The estate Cannon Hill, designed by the architectural firm Nelson & Van Wagenen for insurance-company executive John Henry Jones Stewart, was built circa 1911, according to Long Island history sites that provide no documentation. It went through two other hands and was renamed twice before being purchased by Martin Dwyer Jr., head of the Jamaica Water Supply Company. He subsequently sold it to Lennon and Ono, and she eventually sold it to business executive Daniel Carroll deRoulet Sr., according to the sites. (While the house is technically located in neighboring Laurel Hollow, both Lennon and Ono refer to it as being in Cold Spring Harbor.)
It was while living here that Lennon, who had been on a long sabbatical from the music industry while caring for Sean, took his first steps, or perhaps his first sea legs, toward his "Double Fantasy" comeback.
Approaching 40, Lennon bought a 14-foot sailboat from Tyler Coneys, of Huntington's Coneys Marine, and took sailing lessons from him. The music icon then organized a boat trip to Bermuda, with a crew including Coneys, two cousins of Coneys and Hank Halsted, captain of the 43-foot schooner they would take, the Megan Jaye. Leaving from Newport, Rhode Island, they spent six days in June 1980 on a much-chronicled, storm-tossed voyage, arriving in Bermuda on June 11. Lennon spent two months there, writing several songs of what would become his final album.
Lennon returned to Manhattan immediately after the trip to begin recording "Double Fantasy" at Hit Factory Studios on West 48th Street. It is unclear if he ever returned to his beloved Cannon Hill.
A previous version of this story misstated Tyler Coneys' name and had incorrect location references to Laurel Hollow and the island of Bermuda.