Lee and his wife Dani Bacon stood behind the lectern opposite Aberdeen City Council on Wednesday night, and presented their three-pronged plan to get people more engaged with the story of Aberdeen’s most famous son, Kurt Cobain.
The first visual realization of their plan will come at 6 p.m., Monday evening, Feb. 20, when a vital part of their project will light up the night’s sky. They will “illuminate,” the Side One Building, an urban moss green-colored building at the corner of South K and West Wishkah streets. The building, which the Bacons own, is the site for two of the three prongs of the plan.
The hope is the lights enliven the future for Cobain fans as much as it brightens the sky that evening. The Nirvana mural, which is adorned above the windows of The Side One Building, will be dedicated and lit that evening. Refreshments will be served.
As Lee tells it, people come to Aberdeen to see the history of Cobain, who founded Nirvana. The problem for them, according to the Bacons, is there’s not much in town that is related to Cobain’s history besides the Kurt Cobain Memorial Park, the Young Street Bridge, the exterior of Cobain’s childhood home, the city’s welcome sign with the song title “Come As You Are,” and the downtown coffee shop, Nirvana Coffee Company.
The Bacons want to change that with a respectful, historically accurate homage to the Aberdeen-born and raised Cobain.
“It’s a big opportunity to share with fans and engage with fans, and hopefully get them to come see Aberdeen,” said Lee, who was the main presenter. “See the positive sides of Aberdeen, get more people to come back to Aberdeen. We’re really hoping that this can become a real positive project.”
Lee told the city council members, plus city staff, how when he and Dani came to Aberdeen, the town wasn’t what they expected.
“I was just really shocked that there wasn’t more to see,” Lee said about Cobain’s story through the town. “As we got into the project, it only reinforced our beliefs that we knew there should be, and there could be more of a destination for fans to come and visit.”
The Bacons came up with the idea for the project in 2016.
So, what’s the project? The project’s parts are in three different sections, Dani said.
“We have Kurt Cobain’s childhood home, which is a museum. … We have a project called The Green Room, and we have what will be The Tribute Gallery, which will be a bigger piece of the project as well,” Dani said.
The home — 1210 E. First St. — required a lot of care as in the years since the Cobain family left it, it had become a “time capsule,” Lee said.
“The family moved out in 1995, nothing had changed,” Lee said as he detailed how the home looked. “We said ‘Wow,’ this is great.’ It had original furniture. It came with an amazing canvass to work with, plus we had the family input to tell the story accurately. So that got us real excited.”
Then the real work began, Lee said.
“Then you get to get into the repairs of a home that was built in 1923. And it’s not just the restoration of a home. It’s the restoration of a historically significant home. So we went through all the detailing and the fixing up, and then we basically said, ‘Now it’s time to do the inside.’”
After years of work, he can’t wait to show people Cobain’s old home. He referred to the Washington State Historic Registered building — with the historic name “Cobain, Donald & Wendy, House,” according to the state’s Department of Archaelogy and Historic Preservation — as a “living museum.” The house was registered in June 2021.
Then there’s the Side One Building, as Lee called it. The building will host The Green Room and The Tribute Gallery.
The Green Room has an estimated opening of June 1, and The Tribute Gallery has an estimated construction start date of Aug. 1. Those two parts will be in the Urban Moss green building the Bacons own at the intersection of South K and West Wishkah streets.
Finding the right building on Wishkah Street
“As we were hunting for projects, we needed a project that was on Wishkah Street, we wanted one that was on Wishkah, had good character and solid bones, and enough of a footprint and geometry inside to really spread out and tell the story,” Lee said. “By the way, it had to be cheap too, so we didn’t have high expectations. It was really an impossible task, but we found the building. And then the work began.”
After a bunch of work — assessments, asbestos testing, and “all the fun stuff” — as Lee told it, the Bacons wanted to ensure the building looked good on the outside. They were also going to respect the “character” of the building.
“We’re gonna bring it back to its original grandeur and we’re gonna basically light it up,” Lee said. “And that’s what we did. We wanted to get rid of the pale brown and apply a custom paint representative of the 70s and 60s.”
They also introduced custom lighting. A photo during the slideshow makes it reminiscent of a Hollywood premiere with light that spans up and into the sky.
“We are very pleased and proud of how it looks,” Lee said.
The Green Room will function as a precursor to the gallery. Inside The Green Room there will be images of the gallery; it’ll be a grunge-themed soft-industrial space. There is going to be imagery from people involved in it. There are going to be custom guitars.
“And most importantly there’s going to be information on what to do and why to come back,” Lee said.
Lee wants to work with the other sites in town, such as hotels and restaurants.
“So when people come (and ask) ‘Where do we eat? Where do we stay?’ We’ll be able to give them some idea so they can go out, maybe stick around and stay overnight, and then become kind of a tourism information center,” Lee said.
The gallery, the main attraction inside the building, will be full of Cobain memorabilia, couches to hang out and other fun stuff for people interested in learning about Side One of Cobain’s life, his Aberdeen beginnings. Part of the gallery will feature a photo from a Nirvana “Unplugged” performance on MTV, which shows Cobain smiling.
“We want people to leave smiling, having learned something about the story, and it’s a positive experience,” Lee said. “So coming down Wishkah, you’re driving and you’re gonna see a big picture, a really iconic picture of Kurt smiling.”
Lee pointed out a plaque that sits on the corner of the photograph. It’s noteworthy for the words on it that Cobain once spoke.
“My manager told me I need to smile more,” Lee said about Cobain. “And he’s got his smirk.”
The project will tell more stories like that.
“Each of the photos will have stories, will have artifacts, guitars,” Lee said. “We want it to be really inviting. And it’s not a museum. It’s not a museum. My wife and I have talked frequently about the idea that if people leave and go ‘well that’s nothing like a museum, it’s almost an anti-museum’ we’ll say ‘Mission Accomplished.’”
‘Kurt Cobain Day’
Serendipitously, the city council voted on a resolution that makes Monday, Feb. 20 — Cobain’s birthday — “Kurt Cobain Day.” Aberdeen Mayor Pete Schave read the resolution. The resolution highlights how Cobain made an impact on Aberdeen and the music world.
“Whereas Kurt Cobain was a musician, lead vocalist, guitarist, primary songwriter, and co-founder for the band Nirvana,” Schave read. “Whereas Kurt is recognized worldwide as the most influential pioneer of the grunge and alternative rock genres of Generation X.”
The resolution continues as it refers to Kurt’s legacy having brought many “loyal fans” to celebrate his contributions to the world throughout his “melodic artistry,” and where Nirvana itself is credited with “leading the cultural revolution through their “Nevermind” album,” and the album’s impact on rock and roll.
Nirvana —Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Cobain — were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2014. Schave continued with the resolution. Perhaps the most impactful sentence preceded the end of the resolution, which Schave also read. There’s no denying the Bacons would agree with the way the line is written.
“Whereas Kurt was a voice for love and acceptance for all people and whose generosity, public awareness and undeniable musical gifts are universally recognized as the driving force behind the founding of Nirvana,” Schave read.
Contact Reporter Matthew N. Wells at email@example.com.