Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Jimi Hendrix childhood home torn down

Despite an eight-year, $100,000-plus effort by a Seattle real-estate investor, the house where Jimi Hendrix lived as a child in Seattle is gone.

This is all that was left last week of a Jimi Hendrix home last week. It's gone, by order of the city of Renton.

RENTON — The demolition crew has been working at a fast pace, and the tiny, 900-square-foot house where Jimi Hendrix lived from ages 10 to 13, and first showed his love for music, was down to its shell Monday.

Despite an eight-year, $100,000-plus effort by Pete Sikov — a Seattle real-estate investor who at first wasn't a Hendrix devotee, but became one — the historic structure is gone.

If you're a fan, vanished will be the chance to drive by and imagine how it would have been in the early 1950s for Jimi Hendrix, who died in 1970 at age 27 in London, apparently choking on his vomit after an unintentional combination of sleeping pills and alcohol.

The value of the intact home, however dilapidated, was that it allowed visitors to imagine the poverty and simple beginnings of one of rock 'n' roll's greatest musicians.

That was when a young Jimi played a ukulele with one string, remembered Leon Hendrix, 61, Jimi's younger brother by five years. Leon Hendrix remembered how his brother used the ukulele to strum the hip, jazzy "Peter Gunn Theme" from the hit TV detective show by the same name, "because you could play it using only one string."

"This is where he first discovered music," said Charles R. Cross, author of the acclaimed Hendrix biography "Room Full of Mirrors."

It saddens Cross that the 100-plus-year-old house is gone.

"It's all a shame; too bad no city body stepped up to the plate to save the place Jimi lived in. Let's be blunt: He's the most famous guy to ever be born in the city of Seattle," Cross said.

Sikov doesn't refer to the house as having been demolished. He uses the term "deconstructed."

His crew is throwing out any newer additions made to the house after Al Hendrix, Jimi's dad, bought it in 1950 with a $10 down payment. The entire roof, for example, went to the dump.

But, Sikov said, original parts such as kitchen cabinets, a claw-foot tub, the back door, "and literally a ton of other pieces," will be labeled, cataloged and stored "in a safe place."

"It awaits the future," Sikov said.

Perhaps, he said, pieces could be sold as a fundraiser for First Place, an agency that helps homeless children and which Sikov has assisted in the past.

"Can you imagine a guitar made out of wood from Jimi's house? Who wouldn't want that?" Sikov said.

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