If you’re traveling to the north country cold, there’s a house that’s going to be sold: Three bedrooms, two baths, spacious living room, formal dining room—and the ghost of a live-in muse. The location is Hibbing, Minn., a remote mining town (pop. 20,000) about two hours from the Canadian border. As a special incentive, the sellers have included much of the previous owners’ furniture in the $84,000 asking price.
That’s big money in Hibbing, but this isn’t just anyone’s house. The two-story stucco structure—located just a convenient block and a half from the high school and only six blocks from Highway 169—happens to be the boyhood home of one Bobby Zimmerman, better known as Bob Dylan. It was in this house, purchased by Abe and Beatty Zimmerman in 1947, following the family’s move from Duluth, that Dylan wrote poetry and practiced the Little Richard-style act he performed at a high school talent show. (His classmates, failing to realize that here was a kid bound for glory, booed him off the stage.)
No bohemian lair, the house includes a basement that Dylan’s dad paneled in knotty pine, and such other Leave It to Beaver touches as the songwriter’s bed—occupied until recently by Patrick Marolt, 22, son of the current owner. So what if it’s neither big nor brass: “Patrick’s friends thought it was a thrill to sleep in Bob’s bed,” says Angel Marolt, who with her husband, Terry, bought the house for $22,500 in 1967 from Dylan’s widowed mother—”a very generous woman” who offered the young couple most of her furniture before moving to St. Paul, where she still lives. (Bob moved out in 1959, at 18, to seek his fortune in Minneapolis.)
“We could probably sell to someone in town in a minute just ’cause it’s in a real nice all-American neighborhood,” says Angel. “But we thought it deserved special treatment.” That meant a classified ad in Rolling Stone and an asking price most locals view as loco. “The house would normally go for no more than $40,000,” says Ed Zdon, editor of the Hibbing Daily Tribune. But if Interstate I real estate agent Curt Curtis has his way, the times may soon be a changin’ in Hibbing. He thinks Dylan’s record company, Columbia, should buy the house, then give it away in a contest. (Columbia spokesmen say they have no such intention.)Then again, he suggests, maybe some Dylantante could buy it and turn it into a museum, a sort of downscale Grace-land. Curtis, who is offering a free four-page, photo-laden prospectus to interested parties (so far, he says, there have been about 100), even thought that Dylan, 47, or his brother David, 42, might buy the house.
But David, an entrepreneur now living near Minneapolis, has let it be known he has no interest. Brother Bobby, who has stayed close to David, is likewise indifferent to the sale. “This is just a house that Bob lived in,” says Dylan spokesman Elliot Mintz. “It is not his wish to turn it into a commercial enterprise. He is not looking for any museum or monument.”
Hard luck, Bob. For the past 25 years, thousands of fans have made their way to 2425 Seventh Avenue East (positively not Fourth Street). “From the day we bought the house, we have had people roll up in their cars, ring the bell and ask if they can take a picture,” says Angel Marolt.
A couple of times, Dylan himself rolled up—once in 1969, when he was in town for his 10th high school reunion, and again in 1984, perhaps afflicted by the subterranean homesick blues. Angel remembers the second trip: “My son said, ‘Mom, there’s some strange-looking guy out there looking at the house.’ He came in and visited for an hour, maybe two.”
You might say he felt at home. “He was amazed at how much it looked like his house,” says Angel, whose husband was in Dylan’s class at Hibbing High. “He was real nostalgic. He said his bedroom looked so small, and he told us, ‘I always thought it was so big.’ ”
Although the Marolts have kept the Zimmermans’ bedroom lamps, kitchen plates, even a poster Dylan gave his mother, Angel admits to tossing away some handwritten Dylan poems stored in a hassock. “Not too smart, I know,” she says.
No. And whether the house will fetch its asking price is anybody’s guess. Or as someone else once put it more poetically: The answer is blowin’ in the wind.
—By Joanne Kaufman, with Margaret Nelson in Hibbing