Every inch of the new Seattle park is a testament to Jimi Hendrix’s work and legacy — down to the shape of the park itself. Walkways form the outline of a guitar, and 12 “frets” in the instrument’s neck tell the timeline of Hendrix’s life.
Purple guitars, purple walkways and a crowd of purple-clad families adorned the newest park in the Central District on Saturday — the long awaited Jimi Hendrix Park.
The $2.2 million park, located next to the Northwest African American Museum at 24th Avenue South and South Massachusetts Street, has been under development for the last several years as organizers raised funds and designed the city’s newest tribute to the Seattle-born rock icon.
“He gave so much to the world,” said Maisha Barnett, the park’s project manager at the Jimi Hendrix Park Foundation. “We wanted to have a space that was an inspiration for youth and everyone to come out and play music, and for people to come and learn more about him.”
Organizers and neighbors marked the day with a public concert on the park grounds, under a shelter designed to look like a butterfly wing. Students from the Bellevue School of Rock kicked off the party with a rendition of Hendrix’s “Purple Haze.”
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Every inch of the park is a testament to Hendrix’s work and legacy — down to the shape of the park itself. The walkways form the outline of a guitar, and 12 “frets” in the instrument’s neck tell the timeline of Hendrix’s life.
The park’s entrance displays Hendrix’s signature carved into the concrete wall before a staircase leading to the green space where purple flowering plants have been added throughout. Hendrix lyrics are etched into the edges of the walkways.
Jimi Hendrix Park officially opened Saturday, though the organizers still have one final piece to add. Within the next year, a purple “shadow wave wall” — designed with Hendrix’s face in the middle — will be built atop a small slope in the park.
Sony Music has donated $300,000 toward the wall.
When the Hendrix foundation first brought the idea to then-Gov. Chris Gregoire about 10 years ago, she was “baffled” why such an homage didn’t already exist, said Janie Hendrix, Jimi’s sister and CEO of Experience Hendrix. Seattle has had other memorials to Hendrix, including a statue on Capitol Hill, an exhibit at MoPOP and a memorial at Woodland Park Zoo — but not a full space. At Garfield High School, which Hendrix attended, a bust of the late musician is on display.
Hendrix, widely considered one of rock’s greatest guitarists, died in 1970 at age 27.
Funding for the park came from city and county grants including a Department of Neighborhoods grant and Building for Culture grant, as well as corporate sponsors such as Hard Rock International and individuals.
After roadblocks along the 10-year journey, about 250 people gathered for the park’s grand opening.
“I don’t know why it’s taken so long for us to be able to have this park in the name of Jimi Hendrix,” said Carver Gayton, a member of the park foundation and a former head of the African-American museum. “He’s one of the most unbelievable music icons in the history of this country and we finally got something here in Seattle.”
Local musician Michael Wansley, better known as “Wanz,” hosted the event, at which Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Councilmember Larry Gossett also spoke. The Guitar Store donated a Fender Stratocaster as a prize to the winner of a chalk-art contest and hosted an “instrument petting zoo.”
The park is designed with musicians and performers in mind, featuring a paved area under the shelter for concerts.
“I don’t think there’s very many musicians that Jimi didn’t inspire,” Janie Hendrix said.
He certainly inspired local guitarist Michael Auchter, who attended four Hendrix concerts in Seattle. Auchter remembers every detail of the performances — from the $3.50 he paid for floor seats to the moment Hendrix stepped on his hand as he ran back to the stage.
Hendrix fans traveled from as near as the blocks surrounding the park to as far away as California, Colorado and New Mexico to attend the opening. Eventually, the organizers said, the park will be a destination for visitors from all over the world.
Neighbor Marie Goines and her mom Diana Goines came to celebrate the opening.
“We don’t have very many places in the city where people of color can congregate,” Marie Goines said. “Jimi Hendrix kind of touched all communities.”