Tracing the history of the late-icon's fabled Minnesota compound

Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Musicians both living and dead have had their estates transform into tourist attractions, but Prince, who died Thursday at the age of 57, never wanted any of that. His massive residence, Paisley Park, located just outside his hometown of Minneapolis in Chanhassen, Minn., was inconspicuous from the outside. During a visit last year, EW described its exterior as resembling “a telecom center, or maybe a place where dental supplies are manufactured” but compared its interior to that of inside “the bottle of a genie.” All his awards, the fancy recording studio, the purple décor—you’d never tell from looking at the place what it housed.

That was by design: Prince didn’t want visitors “to feel like they’ve walked into Graceland,” according to what one aide told TIME magazine in 1990. But now, after his passing, fans are making a trip anyway, gathering outside of the property to mourn and leave bouquets of purple flowers.

California architecture firm BOTO completed the 55,000 square foot complex in 1988, and at the time it was valued at around $10 million dollars. The design reflected some of Prince’s unique tastes: a glass pyramid atop the structure would glow purple whenever Prince was inside, and at one point a wall featured an illustration of Prince’s eyes with a “godlike sunburst beaming out from between them,” according to one description from 1996. Befitting his name, Paisley Park seemed fit for royalty with its “marble floors…tromp l’oeil waterfalls and purple columns,” according to People magazine in 2000. Not much appeared to have changed when EW critic Leah Greenblatt paid a visit in 2015: “In the lobby, there are a lot of celestial motifs—walls painted like clouds, area rugs covered in stars—tufted cushions, and oversize chairs in swoopy, Dr. Seussian shapes.” Oh, yeah, and the pronounceable love symbol he hanged his name to back in the ‘90s? It’s all over the place.

A song on Prince’s 1985 album Around the World in a Day inspired the name of the property, as well as his record label that ran from about 1985 to 1994 and put out releases from Sheila E., Mavis Staples and the Purple One himself. In addition a recording studio, the premises also housed soundstages and a production facility that were used for everything from music video shoots to chili commercials—instead of leaving his hometown for Hollywood, he brought a little of Hollywood to his hometown. Prince would go on to record almost 30 albums at Paisley Park, even after Paisley Park Records closed. How could he not, when every room was reportedly wired so that Prince could record when inspiration struck, no matter where he was in the building?

In his final years, Prince would throw concerts and parties on location, including the “Dance Rally 4 Peace” show last year in response to the death of Freddie Gray and the national conversation around police brutality. Often, the gatherings would last until the wee hours: “It was always really late,” producer Jimmy Jam, who played with Prince after first meeting him in junior high, recalls to EW. “You had to hang until 2 or 3 in the morning. Generally it was worth it. There were always events. He started doing a lot more of those. It seems weird to say that, but recently he had been doing a lot of those. He’d always been driven by the love music and it was always his motivator.”