Exploring Chris Cornell’s Seattle

Exploring Chris Cornell’s Seattle

If you’re planning a pilgrimage to Seattle and are a fan of Chris Cornell, I have some must-visit locations connected to him.

Chris was born on July 20, 1964, in Seattle. His childhood home was in Greenwood, just across from Christ the King Catholic school, which he attended. ("You could throw a rock at it from my house. And I did.") He later went to Thomson Junior High and then switched to PS1, an alternative high school. That’s where he met Kevin Tissot during their sophomore year. They bonded over their love for Elvis Costello and the Clash, and their mutual disinterest in school led them to move in together at 17, still spending time in their mothers' basements—a detail immortalized in Soundgarden’s “Full On Kevin’s Mom.” They first rented a place on Lake City Way, then moved to a house in Ballard with other friends.


Ray’s Boathouse

Ray's Boathouse sign illuminated at dusk with a stunning backdrop of the Puget Sound and distant mountains in Seattle.

Kevin, Chris, and his older brother Peter all worked at Ray’s. In the early '80s, the restaurant was at its peak. Ludvigsen, who became head chef in 1979, is credited with transforming Ray’s into a local fine-dining landmark, known for sourcing the freshest local seafood.

As Soundgarden began to form in the mid-'80s, Ray’s maintenance worker Scott Sundquist joined the band briefly as a drummer. Around this time, Chris moved on to work at the Rain City Grill on Capitol Hill, which was managed by Mike Brown, a former kitchen boss from Ray’s.

In March 1997, a month before Soundgarden disbanded at the peak of their fame, Chris made an unexpected return to Ray’s. The occasion was a farewell party for Ludvigsen, who was leaving after 22 years. During the event, he shared his feelings: “I told him how proud we all were of his success,” he said, pausing. “And how much I missed him. Of course, we believed in how well he would do because we knew the talent was there. But we were so proud of what he had become.”

Ray’s Boathouse continues to operate today, located on the shores of Shilshole Bay in Seattle, offering diners stunning views and a taste of the Pacific Northwest's best seafood.


Capitol Hill

Around 1986, Andy Wood and Chris Cornell moved into a house at 625 Melrose Avenue on Capitol Hill, a place Chris had previously shared with his brother. Unfortunately, this house no longer exists; it has been replaced by apartment buildings. During this time, Chris also worked part-time at a vintage clothing store called "Retro Viva." Andy and Chris fueled each other's creativity, spending their time jamming and exploring new musical ideas together. A recording from this era, which showcases their unique collaboration, can be found on YouTube. The track is titled "Island of Sun."


Reciprocal Recording

Black and white photo of Chris Cornell standing outside the iconic Reciprocal Recording studio in Seattle, a landmark in grunge music history.

The triangular-shaped building, which has seen various owners and purposes over its century-long history, became the home of Reciprocal Recording in June 1986 when Chris Hanzsek and Jack Endino moved into the space. After signing with Sub Pop, Soundgarden recorded their EP “Screaming Life” here in 1987. Later, Nirvana also recorded their album “Bleach” at the same location. Situated in Ballard at 4230 Leary Way NW, this historic building is still standing. Extra tip: If you’re looking for a “Screaming Life” T-shirt, you might find one at the Sub Pop Store in Downtown Seattle. Jack Endino now operates out of a new studio called "Soundhouse," also located in Seattle.


Sound Garden

The Sound Garden installation near Magnuson Park in Seattle, featuring large wind-powered musical sculptures against a clear blue sky.

In a 1989 interview, Chris Cornell and Kim Thayil were asked about the origin of the name "Soundgarden." Kim Thayil clarified, “We are not named after this sculpture; we just liked the name.” Chris added, “It’s named from 'sound' and 'garden' being two separate words that we sort of just combined into one, and it's a completely different thing.”

The actual 'Sound Garden' art installation was created in 1982 by environmental artist Doug Hollis, in collaboration with the renowned musician and sound sculptor, Trimpin. Located near Magnuson Park in Seattle, this art installation features 12 towering metal sculptures that produce harmonic sounds as the wind passes through them.

Unfortunately, since the onset of Covid-19, access to the installation has been closed to the public, and it's uncertain when or if it will reopen. I've called several times and consistently received the same update that it remains closed for now. Many have attempted to persuade the guards on-site to allow them entry, without any luck. I will update you if there are any changes.


Black Dog Forge, Cyclops Cafe, London Bridge Studio

Chris Cornell and Andy Wood in the late '80s, showcasing the camaraderie and creativity of Seattle's grunge scene.

After Andy Wood passed away, Chris channeled his emotions into songs that, as he explained, didn't fit his band. So, he enlisted the help of former Mother Love Bone members Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard to assist him with the music he wanted to record as a tribute to Andy. At the same time, Jeff and Stone were trying to return to music and, together with Mike McCready (and Matt Cameron on drums), recorded a demo tape that eventually ended up in Eddie Vedder's hands.

Graffiti and posters decorate the entrance to Black Dog Forge in Seattle, a significant rehearsal space for iconic bands like Temple of the Dog.

The rehearsal space they all used was in Black Dog Forge. I wrote about this place a few weeks ago. Both Temple of the Dog and Mookie Blaylock rehearsed there and dined in the Cyclops Cafe, located a block away. You can still visit Cyclops at its new location on 1st Street in Belltown.

The front view of Cyclops Cafe in Belltown, Seattle, with its unique eye-shaped sign and neon lights, a popular spot for local musicians.

Temple of the Dog and Pearl Jam recorded their albums at London Bridge Studio. Temple of the Dog completed their recording in just 15 days, self-produced with the help of Rick Parashar from London Bridge Studio. Check my previous blog post about this place and link to their history tours, which should be at the top of your "must-see" list.


Singles Apartment

Coryell Court Apartments in Seattle, a filming location for the movie 'Singles,' where Chris Cornell appeared wearing a 90 The Original T-shirt.

One month before Temple of the Dog was released, members were already involved in the movie production of Cameron Crowe's 'Singles.' The film was shot at various locations around Seattle, including scenes at Gas Works Park, Capitol Hill, Jimi Hendrix's original grave at Greenwood Memorial Park in Renton, Pike Place Market, and the Virginia Inn. The central coffee shop featured in the film is the now-closed OK Hotel. Additional concert footage was shot in the now-defunct RKCNDY bar.

The most popular spot is the Coryell Court, apartment complex located at 1820 E. Thomas St  In one one the scenes filmed there, Chris Cornell appears walking down from the stairs WEARING ONE  OUR 90THE ORIGINAL T-SHIRT! 

Chris Cornell in 90 The Original tee and the main character from the movie 'Singles' standing in front of the Coryell Court Apartments, a key location in the film.

If you decide to visit this place, please be mindful—it's an apartment building where people live, so respect their privacy.

Another interesting story is that Chris recorded the first versions of “Spoonman,” “Flutter Girl,” along with “Seasons” and two other songs, all inspired by a tape that Jeff Ament created for the movie's character Poncier. Chris wrote and recorded all these songs in one day. He was simply a genius.


Discovery Park

Anita Stelmasiuk, the author of the blog post, sitting casually at Discovery Park in Seattle, wearing a 'Temple of the Dog' T-shirt.

Driven by the grunge movement and the success of 'Singles'—which was also credited to the popularity of grunge—A&M decided to reissue Temple of the Dog and record a video for the single "Hunger Strike." Directed by Paul Rachman, the video was shot in Seattle's Discovery Park with the West Point Lighthouse in the background. This location is beautiful to visit. The only challenge there is the limited parking; unfortunately, I don’t have any good tips for finding a spot.


Black Sun

Anita Stelmasiuk posing in front of Isamu Noguchi's 'Black Sun' sculpture in Volunteer Park, Seattle, with a casual grunge-inspired outfit.

Many mistakenly believe Soundgarden's hit single "Black Hole Sun" was inspired by Isamu Noguchi's sculpture "Black Sun," located in Volunteer Park.

"I had misheard a news anchor, and I thought he said 'black hole sun,' but he said something else. So I was corrected, but after that, I thought, 'Well, he didn't say it, but I heard it,' and it created this image in my brain. I thought it would be an amazing song title. It was a thought-provoking phrase, and it became that song. That title came before the music, so the music was the inspiration that came from the images created by those words," Chris explained in 2014.

I visit 'Black Sun' every time I am in Seattle. The view from the sculpture includes the Space Needle, Olympic Mountains, and Elliott Bay, and it's truly one of a kind.


Easy Street Records

Anita Stelmasiuk with Matt Vaughan from Easy Street Records standing next to a vibrant mural of Chris Cornell on a red brick wall in Seattle, painted by local artist Son Duong.

Chris Cornell's last home was in West Seattle, where he lived until he moved away from the city for good. This area is known for Easy Street Records, the most famous record store in the region. This place should be at the top of your list for numerous reasons. You can find the best records, shirts, books, and everything music-related there. Additionally, on the side wall, there is a large mural painted by artist Son Duong featuring an image of Chris Cornell. It's a beautiful tribute that you simply must see.


MoPop and Chris Cornell Statue 

Anita Stelmasiuk posing with the life-size bronze statue of Chris Cornell at the MoPOP Museum in Seattle, a tribute to the iconic musician.

Top of your Seattle visit list should be the life-size bronze statue of Chris Cornell, masterfully sculpted by artist Nick Marra. This tribute captures Chris in one of his iconic poses, featuring his signature boots, dog tag, layered attire, and flowing locks. Donated to MoPOP by Vicky Cornell, this statue is a poignant reminder of his legacy. You must also visit the MoPOP Museum; its exceptional curation makes it an essential destination. Known as ‘An Everlasting Tribute to Seattle's Son,’ Chris's statue is prominently displayed there. Whenever I’m in Seattle, you’ll find me there, engaging with other fans who continue to honor his memory.

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