That time Jimi Hendrix's house almost wiped out our trailer park
The body of musician Jimi Hendrix lies in a Renton cemetery. Across the street is the Hi-Land Mobile Manor Park, which looks like it hasn’t changed much since it was built in the 1950s.
A few years ago, a 900-square-foot house showed up to the mobile home park on a flatbed truck trailer. It was Hendrix’s childhood home. It rolled up to the mobile park because of a dream. A dream that would not come true.
A Seattle developer had bought Hendrix’s home because he wanted to save it. Peter Sikov was the developer’s name, and he sunk a lot of money into it.
A couple years ago, Sikov told me his real estate projects are really “experiential art projects, experiential music projects, asylums, really, for people to experience and express whatever it is that they may with.”
The high-minded project Sikov had in mind would have eventually destroyed Hi-Land Mobile Manor Park.
Park resident Jeremy Chirinos didn’t know that when he rode his scooter around and around Hendrix’s house. He only knew that people had gone through a lot of effort to bring this house here from Seattle. “I was like, who is this guy?” Chirinos said. “I had no idea who he was.”
Hendrix was a famous musician who came from Seattle. He had lived in the Central District and learned to play guitar in this home during the 1950s.
Hendrix’s childhood home was to be restored. It would form the cornerstone of an ambitious project including a volunteer-run museum, a music school for kids and a recording studio. It would attract visitors to Hendrix’s grave, just across the street.
You’d think the mobile home park residents would be outraged. But Hi-Land Mobile Manor resident and manager Jim Davis embraced the vision. He had seen Hendrix perform in 1970, and he never forgot it. “So it didn’t bother me as far as, well, everybody’s got to move,” he said.
Hendrix, Davis said, had a message and personality worth celebrating. “You know, if you really listen to him – Wooh! What a great human being. Really, love him. Love him. Just love him.”
Davis described how he felt the morning the house pulled into his trailer park. “Early in the morning. Maybe five in the morning. Dead silence. Nobody really other than the neighbor was out there. And we cranked some Jimmy Hendrix. Five in the morning! Ha ha! Yeah, Band of Gypsies. And that’s what we did, in honor of it.”
“What kind of reaction did you get from your neighbors?” I asked.
“One complaint,” said Davis, “And it was a guy who didn’t live here. He was just staying the night. And I laughed at him. Ha ha! Told him to go back to bed. ‘Go on and git!’”
There were early signs that the project wasn’t completely thought out. “They had to cut the roof off to get it under the power lines,” said Davis. Then there was the time the tarp protecting the house flew off in a windstorm. “Bad news, bad news. Rain,” recalled Davis, details of that furious day, not knowing who to call for help. “Anyway, we saved it.”
Davis and his wife became the house’s protectors. “We really cared a lot about it. We really wanted it to happen.”
But the developer ran into problems. Four years passed with no major progress. Renton grew weary of the house with the fence around it and made him take it away. Davis is still sad about what happened to the house. “Ahhh … Gotta let it be,” he said, “Let it be.”
“I just came home one day and it was gone,” said trailer park resident Hector Cano. “And I’m like, ‘What the heck happened to the house?'” Like his neighbor Jeremy Chirinos, Cano had grown up in the shadow of the Hendrix House. When the house disappeared, so did the immediate threat that these homes would be destroyed.
Today, there’s just a couple of concrete pads at the spot. The youngest kids in the trailer park use it to play soccer.
Every year, thousands of people visit the grave across the street. But in the trailer park, most people don’t think about Hendrix that much.
Jim Davis keeps photos of the house on his wall, and he tells people about Hendrix if they ask.
Chirinos and Cano grew up, graduated from high school, and are thinking about their futures.
Chirinos recognized Jimi Hendrix, when he showed up in a video game he was playing. “I remember playing Rock Band and then he would just came out, started playing. I mean, not my cup of tea, but I’m pretty sure he was good.”
A few trailers down, Cano has developed a mild appreciation for Hendrix’s music. But he seems even more inspired by the impact Hendrix had, despite his modest beginnings. “Everybody comes from a humble place,” he said, “And not everybody’s rich when they grow up, you know?”
Cano works at Arby’s, but he has this dream of using technology to bring clean water to people in drought stricken countries.
He’s not certain yet how he’ll make it happen, but this summer, he expects to sit by Hendrix’s grave across the street and do some thinking. “You never know,” he said, “You can get inspiration from someone that’s dead, you know.”
There may not be a Jimi Hendrix museum in Renton. But there is this affordable place for people to live and dream. “You know, it ended up good, regardless of the house not being here,” said manager Jim Davis. “Look at all the people get to live here. All the families. Whoo! I think Jimi would be happy. I think Jimi’d be smiling.”
The developer still owns the trailer park. When he took the house away, he chopped it up into pieces. He’s holding onto the wood. Someday, he hopes to turn it into guitars that he can sell.