Graceland is a mansion on a 13.8-acre (5.6 ha) estate in Memphis, Tennessee, United States, once owned by singer and actor Elvis Presley. His daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, has been the owner of Graceland since his death in 1977. Graceland is located at 3764 Elvis Presley Boulevard in the vast Whitehaven community, about 9 miles (14 km) from Downtown and less than 4 miles (6.4 km) north of the Mississippi border.
It was opened to the public as a museum on June 7, 1982. The site was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on November 7, 1991, becoming the first site related to rock and roll to be entered therein. Graceland was declared a National Historic Landmark on March 27, 2006, also a first for a rock singer. Graceland is the second most-visited house in the U.S. after the White House, with over 650,000 visitors a year.
Graceland Farms was originally owned by Stephen C. Toof, founder of S.C. Toof & Co., the oldest commercial printing firm in Memphis, who was previously the pressroom foreman of the Memphis newspaper, the Memphis Daily Appeal. The "grounds" (before the mansion home was built in 1939) was named after Toof’s daughter, Grace. She inherited the farm/grounds from her father in 1894. After her death, the property was passed down to her niece Ruth Moore, a Memphis socialite, who together with her husband, Thomas Moore, built a 10,266-square-foot (953.7 m2) Colonial Revival style mansion in 1939. The house was designed by architects Furbringer and Ehrman.
After Elvis Presley began his musical career, he purchased a $40,000 home for himself and his family at 1034 Audubon Drive in Memphis. As his fame grew, especially after his appearances on television, the number of fans that would congregate outside the house multiplied. Presley’s neighbors, most of whom were happy to have a celebrity living nearby, soon came to find the constant gathering of fans and journalists a nuisance.
In early 1957, Presley gave his parents, Vernon and Gladys Presley, a budget of $100,000 and asked them to find a "farmhouse"-like property to purchase. At the time, Graceland was located several miles beyond Memphis’ main urban area. In later years, Memphis would expand with housing, resulting in Graceland being surrounded by other properties. Presley purchased Graceland on March 19, 1957 for the amount of $102,500.
Later that year, Presley invited Richard Williams and singer Buzz Cason to the house. Cason said: "We proceeded to clown around on the front porch, striking our best rock ‘n’ roll poses and snapping pictures with the little camera. We peeked in the not-yet-curtained windows and got a kick out of the pastel colored walls in the front rooms with shades of bright reds and purples that Elvis most certainly had picked out." Elvis was fond of claiming that the US government had mooted a visit to Graceland by Nikita Khrushchev, "to see how in America a fellow can start out with nothing and, you know, make good."
After Gladys died in 1958 aged 46, Vernon remarried to Dee Stanley in 1960, and the couple lived at Graceland for a time. There was some discord between Elvis and his stepmother Dee at Graceland, however, and Elaine Dundy said "that Vernon had settled down with Dee where Gladys had once reigned, while Dee herself – when Elvis was away – had taken over the role of mistress of Graceland so thoroughly as to rearrange the furniture and replace the very curtains that Gladys had approved of." This was too much for the singer who still loved his late mother deeply. One afternoon, "a van arrived … and all Dee’s household’s goods, clothes, ‘improvements,’ and her own menagerie of pets, were loaded on … while Vernon, Dee and her three children went by car to a nearby house on Hermitage until they finally settled into a house on Dolan Drive which ran alongside Elvis’ estate."
According to Mark Crispin Miller, Graceland became for Presley "the home of the organization that was himself, was tended by a large vague clan of Presleys and deputy Presleys, each squandering the vast gratuities which Elvis used to keep his whole world smiling." The author adds that Presley’s father Vernon "had a swimming pool in his bedroom", that there "was a jukebox next to the swimming pool, containing Elvis’ favorite records" and that the singer himself "would spend hours in his bedroom, watching his property on a closed-circuit television." According to the singer’s cousin, Billy Smith, Presley spent the night at Graceland with Smith and his wife Jo many times: "we were all three there talking for hours about everything in the world! Sometimes he would have a bad dream and come looking for me to talk to, and he would actually fall asleep in our bed with us." Priscilla Beaulieu also lived at Graceland for five years before she and Elvis wed in Las Vegas, Nevada, on May 1, 1967. Their daughter Lisa Marie Presley was born on February 1, 1968, and spent the first years of her life on the estate until her parents divorced in 1972, and she moved to California with her mother. Every year around Christmas, Lisa Marie Presley and all her family would go to Graceland to celebrate Christmas together. Lisa Marie often goes back to Graceland for visits. When Elvis would tour, staying in hotels, "the rooms would be remodeled in advance of his arrival, so as to make the same configurations of space as he had at home – the Graceland mansion. His furniture would arrive, and he could unwind after his performances in surroundings which were completely familiar and comforting," the room in question, ‘The Jungle Room’ being "an example of particularly lurid kitsch."
On August 16, 1977, Presley died aged 42 in the bathroom at Graceland. The official cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia, although toxicology reports strongly suggested that polypharmacy was the primary cause of death; "fourteen drugs were found in Elvis’ system, with several drugs such as codeine in significant overprescribed quantities. Elvis Presley lay in repose in a 900-pound copper-lined coffin just inside the foyer while over 3,500 of Elvis’ mourning fans passed by to pay their respects. A private funeral with 200 mourners was held on August 18, 1977 in the house, with the casket placed in front of the stained glass doorway of the music room. Graceland continued to be occupied by members of the family until the death of Elvis’ aunt Delta in 1993, who had moved in at Elvis’ invitation after her husband’s death. Elvis’ daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, inherited the estate in 1993 when she turned 25. Presley’s tombstone, along with that of his parents Gladys & Vernon Presley and of his grandmother Minnie Mae Presley can be visited in the Meditation Garden next to the mansion, during the mansion tours or for free before the mansion tours begin. A memorial gravestone for Presley’s stillborn twin brother, Jesse Garon, is also at the site.
Constructed at the top of a hill, in a grove of oaks, with rolling pastures surrounding, the house designed by Memphis architectural firm, Furbringer and Erhmanis, is a two-story, five bay residence in the Colonial Revival style with a side-facing gabled roof covered in asphalt shingles, a central two-story projecting pedimented portico, and one-story wings on its north and south sides. Attached to the wing is an additional one-story stuccoed wing that originally housed a four-car garage. There are two chimneys; one on the north exterior side wall, and a second chimney that rises through the roof ridge on the south side of house. The front and side facades of the central block are veneered with tan Tishomingo limestone from Mississippi, and its rear wall is stuccoed, as are the one-story wings. Front facade fenestration at the first floor includes 12-over-12 double-hung windows set in arched openings with wooden panels above the windows, and six-over-six double-hung windows at the second floor. Four stone steps, flanked by two large lions, ascend from the driveway to the two-story central projecting portico containing four Corinthian columns with capitals modeled after James Stuart’s conjectural porticos for the "Tower of the Winds" in Athens. Its pediment has dentils and a central, small, leaded oval window. The columns at the corners of the portico are matched by pilasters on the front facade. The doorway has a broken arched pediment, full entablature, and engaged columns. Its transom and sidelights contain elaborate, colorful stained glass. Above the main entrance is a window with a shallow iron balcony.
Graceland is 17,552 square feet (1,630.6 m2) and has a total of 23 rooms, including eight bedrooms and bathrooms. To the right of the Entrance Hall, through an elliptical-arched opening with classical details, is the Living Room, with the adjoining Music Room behind a doorway framed by vivid large peacocks set in stained glass. The Music Room has a black baby grand piano and a 1950s style TV. The Living Room contains a 15-foot-long (4.6 m) white sofa against the wall overlooking the front yard. To the left is a white fireplace. The painting that was Elvis’ last Christmas present from his father, Vernon, hangs in this room. Also displayed are photographs of Elvis’ parents Vernon and Gladys, Elvis and Lisa Marie. Adjacent to the Living Room is a bedroom that was occupied by Elvis’ parents. The walls, carpet, dresser, and queen size bed are bright white with the bed draped in a velvet-looking dark purple bedspread. The bedroom also has an en-suite full bathroom done in pink.
To the left of the Entrance Hall, mirroring the Living Room is the Dining Room. The room features rounded curio cabinets in the north end corners of the room, and black marble flooring in the center of the room, with carpet around the perimeter. Connected to the Dining Room is the Kitchen that was not open to the public until 1995, as Elvis’ aunt Delta used it until her death in 1993.
The original one-story wing on the north end of the residence includes a mechanical room, bedroom, and bath. In the mid-1960s, Presley enlarged the house to create a den known as Jungle Room which features an indoor waterfall of cut field stone on the north wall. In 1976, the Jungle Room was converted into a recording studio, where Presley recorded the bulk of his final two albums, From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee (1976) and Moody Blue (1977); these were his final known recordings in a studio setting. During the mid-1960s expansion of the house, Presley constructed a large wing on the south side of the main house that was a sidewalk, between the music room in the original one-story wing and the swimming pool area, that connected to the house by a small enclosed gallery. The new wing initially housed a slot car track and to store his many items of appreciation, but was later remodeled to what is now known as the Trophy Building. The Trophy Building now features an exhibit about the Presley family, and it includes Priscilla’s wedding dress, Elvis’ wedding tuxedo, Lisa Marie’s toy chest and baby clothes and more.
The Entrance Hall contains a white staircase leading to the second floor of the house with a wall of mirrors. The floor features Elvis’ bedroom at the southwest corner that connects to his dressing room and bathroom in the northwest corner. His daughter Lisa Marie’s bedroom is in the northeast corner, and a bedroom in the southeast corner served as Elvis’ private personal office. The second floor is not open to visitors, out of respect for the Presley family, and partially to avoid any improper focus on the bathroom which was the site of his death. The floor has been untouched since the day Elvis died and is rarely seen by non-family members.
The TV room in the basement is where Elvis often watched three television sets at once, and was within close reach of a wet bar. The TV room’s west wall is painted with Elvis’ 1970s logo of a lightning bolt and cloud with the initials TCB, for ‘taking care of business in a flash’. The south wall has three built-in television sets, a stereo, and cabinets for Elvis’ record collection. Opposite of the TV room is the billiard room; Elvis, an avid billiards player, bought the pool table in 1960 and had the walls and ceiling covered with 350–400 yards of pleated cotton fabric after the two basement rooms were remodeled in 1974. One corner of the pool table has a tear in the felt caused by one of Elvis’ friends who attempted a trick shot that failed.
After purchasing the property Presley spent in excess of $500,000 carrying out extensive modifications to suit his needs including a pink Alabama fieldstone wall surrounding the grounds that has several years’ worth of graffiti from visitors, who simply refer to it as "the wall", a wrought-iron front gate, designed and built by Abe Sauer, that was shaped like a book of sheet music, with green colored musical notes and a silhouette of Elvis. Presley also installed a kidney shaped swimming pool and a racquetball court.
The racquetball court is reminiscent of an old country club, furnished in dark leather and a functional bar. There is a sunken sitting area with the ever-present stereo system found throughout Graceland, as well as the dark brown upright piano upon which Elvis played for what were to be his last songs, Willie Nelson’s "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" and The Righteous Brothers’ "Unchained Melody". Reports conflict about which one was the last song. The sitting area has a floor-to-ceiling shatterproof window designed to watch the many racquetball games that took place there when Elvis was alive. In the early hours of the morning Elvis died, he, his girlfriend Ginger Alden, his first cousin Billy Smith and Billy’s wife Jo played a game of racquetball ending the game with the song on the piano before Elvis walked into the main house to wash his hair and go to bed. Today the two story court has been restored to the way it was when Elvis used the building.
One of Presley’s better known modifications was the addition of the Meditation Garden, designed and built by architect Bernard Grenadier, that was used by Elvis to reflect on any problems or situations that arose during his life. It is also where he, his parents, and grandmother, Minnie Mae Hood Presley, are buried. A small stone memorializes Elvis’ twin brother Jesse Garon who died at birth.
Elsewhere on the estate is a small white building that served as his father’s office; an old smokehouse that housed Elvis’ shooting range; and a fully functional stable of horses.
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