Memphis has Graceland. Kingston has the Bob Marley Museum. Paris has Musée Edith Piaf. Springhill, Nova Scotia, has the Anne Murray Centre (and don’t you forget it).
And if all goes as planned, Chanhassen, a small Minnesotan city that a majority of the country had likely never heard of until late last week, will have Paisley Park — the museum.
In 1987, Minnesota’s most ridiculously talented native son, the late pop superstar and professional provocateur Prince Rogers Nelson, laid down roots in this quiet, semi-rural burg just southwest of Minneapolis when he erected a $10 million recording studio-cum-soundstage-cum-event space-cum-private residence. He christened it Paisley Park Studios.
And for nearly 30 years, it was within this 65,000-square-foot compound at 7801 Audubon Road that Prince lived, worked, entertained and, most importantly, dreamed. Paisley Park is also where the virtuoso musician died on April 21 at the age of 57 of yet-to-be-determined causes.
Just as Prince’s music — and there’s a lot of it, including a sizable vault of unreleased tracks — will live on, so will Paisley Park with plans to eventually covert it into a public museum a la Graceland in remembrance of the Purple One.
“We will turn Paisley Park into a museum in Prince’s memory,” Maurice Phillips, Prince’s brother-in-law, explains to U.K. tabloid newspaper the Sun. “It would be for the fans. He was all about the fans — this would remember his music, which is his legacy. Prince was always private but would have wanted his music remembered.”
Speaking to Entertainment Tonight, Grammy-nominated percussionist and Prince protégé Sheila E. also hints that Paisley Park will live on as a museum, noting that Prince himself had envisioned opening up a section of his estate to the public.
"We're hoping to make Paisley what [Prince wanted] it to be. [He] was working on it being a museum," says Sheila E. "He's been gathering memorabilia and stuff from all the tours, like my drums and his motorcycle. There's a hallway of his awards and things, which he really didn't care about too much, but he displayed it for the fans because he knows that they would want to see it.”
This all said, fans shouldn’t expect Paisley Park in its newest incarnation, a memorabilia-packed museum, to open anytime soon. The chart-topping “When Doves Cry” singer, worth an estimated $300 million, did not leave a will according to his closest living relative, a sister named Tyka Nelson. She has filed papers with a Minnesota court requesting that a special administrator be appointed to oversee her late brother's estate. Furthermore, it's unclear who will legally inherit Paisley Park.
It's worth pointing that Graceland wasn't converted into a museum until five years after Elvis' death.
The anti-Neverland Ranch
Will or no will, opening Paisley Park to the public as a museum could prove to be a huge economic boon for Chanhassen. Currently, the town’s top cultural attraction is a dinner theatre complex where patrons can take in a performance of “Camelot” while chowing down on lasagna Bolognese.
And a Prince museum located within Paisley Park wouldn’t just attract those who have the lyrics to “Raspberry Beret” memorized by heart. Non-diehard Prince fans will likely be drawn to Paisley Park out of sheer curiosity given that the estate, like the man who lived and worked there, possesses an irrefutable mystique.
In a sense, Paisley Park, named after a psychedelic-tinged single from the 1985 album “Around the World in A Day,” stands as a sort of anti-Neverland Ranch, the Santa Barbara County, California, estate belonging to Michael Jackson, another MTV staple of the 1980s that left us far too early. With its menagerie, midway rides and massive topiary timepiece, Neverland Ranch was an open book envisioned by Jackson as a habitable tribute to 1911’s “Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up” by Scottish novelist J.M. Barrie.
Executed by Santa Monica, California-based Boto Design Architects, the modernist and decidedly non-whimsical Paisley Park, with its state-of-the-art recording studios, sound stages, rehearsal spaces, production offices and editing suites, was designed as a very grown-up place — a secret laboratory compared to Neverland's gleeful, oft-photographed amusement park. Case in point: Unlike Neverland Ranch, Paisley Park is ringed not by a private narrow-gauge railway but by a chain-link fence.
Driving past, Paisley Park could be easily mistaken for the suburban Minneapolis campus of a pharma or telecom company: big, boxy, and largely windowless. From a distance, nothing about the white aluminum-clad building screams Prince, a man that you’d expect to live in a fantastical lavender castle up on a hill.
But when you approach or even, gasp, step foot inside of Paisley Park — sections of the complex were occasionally open to the public for impromptu dance parties and special events — it all makes sense. Inside this nondescript pseudo-office building topped with pyramidal glass skylights, Prince, a remarkably reticent man when not on stage, had created his own self-contained creative universe —a refuge, a retreat, a far-out yet totally functional haven hidden within the shell of an anonymous highway-side building that kind of looks like an IKEA.
A palace fit for a Prince
With Paisley Park's unadorned exterior is surprisingly reserved, the interior of the sprawling complex is anything but. It's eccentric, exotic and wildly self-referential. A bit naughty, even. Basically, it's 100 percent Prince.
Wrote Alexis Petridis for the Guardian in 2015:
Inside, however, it looks almost exactly like you’d imagine a huge recording complex owned by Prince would look. There is a lot of purple. The symbol that represented Prince’s name for most of the 90s is everywhere: hanging from the ceiling, painted on speakers and the studio’s mixing desks, illuminating one room in the form of a neon sign.
There is something called the Galaxy Room, apparently intended for meditation: it is illuminated entirely by ultraviolet lights and has paintings of planets on the walls. There are murals depicting the studio’s owner, never a man exactly crippled by modesty.
“Prince wanted to have a place where he could do all his music and make films and do his tour rehearsals and to dance, choreography and everything under one roof, which back 25 years ago was quite progressive,” architect Bret Theony explained to CBS News following the enigmatic singer's death. “A portion of it was like a stay-over where if he was in the studio late, which he always was, he could just crash for a few hours and get back in the studio.”
As for the windowless ground floors at Paisley Park?
Prince, not reported to be a vampire although he certainly wore capes with aplomb, requested it that way so he could work without being distracted by the transition between day and night while rehearsing or recording.
Other oh-so-Prince features at Paisley Park include a pillow-strewn inner sanctum of sorts called the "Foo Foo Room," a super-secret vault, a mysterious circular outbuilding and, as detailed by Architects Newspaper, a private recording studio with not one but three beds: a daybed, a circular bed and a king-sized bed with a mirror over it — but of course. Some media outlets have reported that giant birdcages filled with white doves lined the hallways of Paisley Park although that, like many details, could very play into the the building's mythology.
At night, the exterior of the complex, which Forbes describes as “being as charming as an Amazon warehouse,” would shine purple to signal that his Royal Badness was in-residence.
While the purple-hued floodlights at Paisley Park have gone dark in the days since Prince officially left the building, the heavens haven't stopped glowing.