Nothing about the house at the corner of East First Street and Chicago Avenue in northeast Aberdeen strikes you as “historic and culturally significant.”
It’s well-kept, surrounded by a black, chain-link fence. It’s literally around the corner from the Kurt Cobain Memorial Park, on the muddy banks of the Wishkah River.
The significance of the house isn’t the structure itself, but what the young man who grew up there — for whom the nearby park is named — contributed to the music history of the state, and the world, that has earned it a spot on the state’s Heritage Register.
“The home is historically significant for its direct connection to Grunge music icon, Kurt Cobain,” wrote Allyson Brooks, State Historic Preservation Officer. “The nominated house served as his childhood home during Cobain’s formative childhood years from 1968 to 1984.”
It’s important to note that the home’s placement on the register does not mean it is open to the public. It is a privately-owned home, not a shrine or museum, and is not open to the public.
The attic bedroom at the front of the house was Cobain’s room, where he first began to develop his natural artistic abilities in the years building up to his creation of the band Nirvana, whose music would speak to a generation of kids across the world.
Known as the Donald and Wendy Cobain House, for Kurt’s parents, the family moved into the residence when Kurt was just a few months old, according to the register application prepared by Lee and Danielle Bacon of Ocean Shores a little more than a month ago.
When Cobain was 9 years old, his parents split; Wendy stayed in the Aberdeen home, he moved to Montesano to live with his dad and other relatives. When he was 14, his uncle Chuck Fradenburg, who played in the band The Beachcombers in the ’60s, bought Kurt a used sunburst Lindell electric guitar. Kurt carried it everywhere, stringing it to accommodate his left-handedness.
While attending Weatherwax High School, Cobain would experiment with his sound in the East First Street family home, practicing all over the house and developing his songwriting talents. He dropped out of high school just shy of his graduation date and, for the next several years, lived what the register application described as a “nomadic life.”
Around 1985, he met Krist Novoselic, who lived in a home on top of Think Of Me Hill with his mother, who operated Maria’s Hair Design on South M Street, where the band would sometimes practice.
The rest, as they say, is history. In 1988, the band chose the name Nirvana and released a single. It gained traction in the Seattle music scene, and the band released its first album, Bleach, in 1989. In 1990, drummer Dave Grohl was brought into the fold. On Sept. 24, 1991, the band released the Nevermind album, with its anthem “Smells Like Teen Spirit” — to date, the album has sold more than 30 million copies.
The band dominated the music scene worldwide, touring the world and gaining a loud and loyal following, and released its final studio album, In Utero, in September 1993 — it knocked Michael Jackson’s Dangerous album off the charts.
Less than seven months later, Cobain, deeply drug-dependant at the time, was found dead at his Seattle home, a shotgun by his side.
Wendy Cobain and Kurt’s sisters, Kim and Brie-Ann, moved out of the East First Street home in 1995, but the home remained in the family until early 2018, when Kim and Wendy sold the home to the Bacons, “local residents of Grays Harbor, who have a deep appreciation to music history,” the Bacons wrote in their Heritage Register application.
“In mid-2018, working with the family, the Bacons began a comprehensive artifact refurnishing and restoration plan to reset the home to the years the family lived there,” read the application. “The restoration is based on meticulously accurate ‘storytelling’ of each room through original furnishing and decor, family photographs, instruments, equipment, interviews, audio recordings, video recordings and artifacts.”
The benefits of state register listing include potential property tax reductions and code waivers to protect the integrity of the property, said Brooks.