Lake Worth Native Campaigns to Turn Kurt Cobain's Childhood Home Into Museum
This past September, in the same month that marked the 20th anniversary of Nirvana's final studio album, In Utero, Kurt Cobain's mom announced that she was putting the Aberdeen, Wash., home where Kurt spent much of his adolescence on the market for a whopping $500,000.
It was just one of a handful of recent and weird headlines involving the legendary grunge frontman. For instance, the former "roommate" who was selling Kurt's skis and phone in a bizarre but humorous Seattle Craigslist post (read about it on Stereogum). And the unveiling of a weeping Kurt Cobain statue by Aberdeen's mayor during the inaugural Kurt Cobain Day. All of this led up to the 20th anniversary of the singer's untimely death next month.
But the sale of the grunge god's childhood home was more than a random news headline to Lake Worth native turned Portland resident Jaime Dunkle. After hearing that the 1.5-story bungalow Cobain lived in on and off until he was 20 years old was on the market, the 33-year-old journalist started plotting how she could help preserve it and turn it into a museum.
For the generation of Nirvana fans who were adolescents themselves when Cobain died, the idea of having a permanent spot to visit, memorialize, and enter a total time warp where Cobain spent his angsty youth is much cooler than seeing his mementos sprawled out at a Hard Rock Café. It's also decidedly much, much cooler than making the trek to the multimillion-dollar Seattle mansion he shared with Courtney Love -- although that location still attracts fans regularly.
If Dunkle gets her wish, Cobain's childhood home will be a full-on museum -- complete with his old mattress in the attic and handwritten band scrawls of Iron Maiden and Led Zeppelin on the walls.
Dunkle started the campaign earlier this month and with the lofty goal of $700,000 ($500,000 for the house with the rest going to purchase property for parking, taxes, and additional memorabilia) has most of those thousands still to go.
It was on a trip on the way back from Seattle that Dunkle and her best friend first visited the house.
"We decided to check out Aberdeen. Since were both from Lake Worth, we were used to dilapidated coastal towns... But Aberdeen was different," Dunkle explained. "I know nothing really of the people, but the town itself has an eerie feel, and almost every building is scarred by some kind of rain erosion. The trees pressed against the harsh grays and dark blues of the architecture somehow evokes a strange comfort."
So she started making calls, bugging realtors, asking for advice, and put together a plan to start a gofundme.com effort where the fundraising pitch promises that they will be "making sure this house is memorialized by us fans so it doesn't end up in the clutches of capitalist greed."
She was a child the first time she heard Nirvana. "I don't know exactly how old I was, but I was a kid, almost a baby, and I was already listening to Morbid Angel and Cannibal Corpse, the Misfits, Dead Milkmen. So much death metal and punk rock, thanks to my late brother Stephen," she said. Dunkle commandeered her brother's cassette of Bleach and listened on repeat.
"I listened to it on my Walkman as early as maybe fourth grade. I didn't understand it then, but it became a central inspiration for my own writing -- not for lyrics but stream of consciousness. As I got older, I started to understand the music I was listening to, so much that I ran away when I was 12 years old and got a Mohawk."
As an adult, Dunkle has spent some time as a go-go dancer at Respectable Street and as a performance artist working alongside Miami's own Notorious Nastie and Otto Von Schirach before moving back to Portland to go to school. The Mohawk stuck for many years.
To get the approval for the possibility of the museum, Dunkle had to send a bio about herself to Cobain's mother, Wendy O'Connor, and prove that she wasn't a "crazed fan" and could actually pull this off. She highlighted numerous scholarships she's received and other achievements. "I used to be in the American Criminal Justice Association, so I made a long list of everything I've ever done and emailed it to the real estate agent, and she said she was forwarding it to Mrs. O'Connor. After that, they started taking me more seriously, I think. It took weeks of phone calls and emails, but I successfully set up an appointment to see the house. I deliberately arranged it to be on what would have been Kurt Cobain's 47th birthday."
In the 1:25 video clip that Dunkle shot inside of the home, you can hear the excitement in Dunkle's voice.
"Being inside was a total head spin. I had to meet with city officials and the realtor first, and by the time we finished hashing out some logistics for making it a museum, I only had 15 minutes to take pictures and make a video. As I wandered around, looking in closets, I imagined him as a teen, crouched inside, scribbling in his diaries or making sketches. The walk up the stairs into his bedroom made the hairs on my neck stand up. All I could think was that I was seeing through his eyes and walking in his footsteps, literally."
Dunkle has heard from fans form across the globe, and several have shared the gofundme account, but so far, she says, few have donated. She does have an undisclosed amount covered by private financial support as well and says she is "confident it's only a matter of time before people start donating."
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