The boyhood home of legendary rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix was saved, once again, from the wrecking ball yesterday as supporters rushed to...
The boyhood home of legendary rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix was saved, once again, from the wrecking ball yesterday as supporters rushed to Seattle City Hall with a last-ditch plan to move the house and convert it into a museum and youth center.
City officials, who had said the house, which is on city property at 2010 S. Jackson St., would be demolished if it wasn’t moved by noon yesterday, acquiesced and gave owners until Aug. 4 to find a final resting place for the dilapidated rambler where Hendrix and his family lived from 1953-56.
The new plan calls for moving the house south to Renton, across from the Greenwood Memorial Park where Hendrix is buried.
“Jimi’s house is safe for now,” said co-owner Pete Sikov, who helps run the James Marshall Hendrix Foundation. The foundation’s main cause for the past four years has been to figure out what to do with the home, whose recent history has been as unstable as Hendrix’s final years.
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In 2001, the home was moved from its original location in Seattle’s Central Area to make way for a new condominium complex. The city offered a vacant lot several blocks away as a temporary spot for the house until a permanent site could be found.
The city gave the foundation a six-month lease at $187 a month. But the foundation struggled to secure funding to relocate and renovate the home, and the city began extending the deadline month to month. Sikov publicly blamed the city for not contributing more to the project, and even said that officials were blocking the foundation’s efforts.
“Mr. Sikov has been trying to make the city look like the bad guy here, but we’ve really been helping him out,” said city spokeswoman Katherine Schubert-Knapp. “This has been going on for 3 ½ years. That’s long enough.”
The real failure, Schubert-Knapp said, has been the foundation’s inability to rally any kind of community support for the project.
The house, which already was run down in the 1950s when Hendrix’s father purchased it, has slowly fallen apart at its temporary site. On a recent rainy morning, it looked especially forlorn. Windows and doors were boarded up with rotting plywood. Tarps and plastic sheets used to cover the roof and windows were shredded and flapped in the wind.
The house was surrounded by overgrown shrubs, and the shrubs were surrounded by a makeshift chain-link fence that had fallen in sections. Much of the house was covered with graffiti. Neighbors complain that it has become a magnet for drug dealers, prostitutes and homeless people looking to stay dry for a night or two.
Schubert-Knapp said although the city has no specific plans for the lot, the house has become “a real public-safety concern.”
Sikov estimates the foundation needs at least $300,000 to move and renovate the house. The foundation (jimihendrixfoundation.com) is planning fund-raisers between now and the new deadline. Compared to Seattle civic leaders, Sikov said Renton public officials have been “very interested, very supportive.”
Seattle author Charles Cross, whose new biography of Hendrix, “Room Full of Mirrors,” will be released by Hyperion Books in August, said he can understand why there might be some public ambivalence toward the house.
The Seattle-born Hendrix, whose mother was an alcoholic and whose father was often unemployed, lived in as many as 26 homes and apartments in the area. But the Central Area house was the only one the family owned until Hendrix hit it big as a musician.
This was the house where, from the ages of about 10 to 13, Hendrix sprinted along the floorboards, played air-guitar with a broom, and leapt off the roof wearing a plastic cape in imitation of his hero Flash Gordon.
Hendrix would go on to become a rock superstar with songs such as “Purple Haze” and “The Wind Cries Mary.”
His legacy is featured prominently in the Experience Music Project interactive museum at Seattle Center. And his gravesite in Renton — a dome-topped memorial — is a popular destination for his fans.
Still, Cross said, Seattle civic leaders haven’t shown much appreciation of Hendrix’s legacy.
“The town has done virtually nothing to honor one of the most influential musicians in modern music history,” Cross said. He said some of the civic recalcitrance has to do with Hendrix’s involvement with drugs and the whole counterculture of the 1960s.
Hendrix died of a drug overdose in 1970 at age 27.
“There is some moralizing going on among civic leaders,” Cross said, citing one citizen who reportedly stated in a public forum that, “The city should not honor a junkie.”
“But if you went down to the Seattle Art Museum and you took down the work of any artist who took opium, there wouldn’t be much art left on the walls.”