LEARN THE SECRETS OF GRACELAND
Graceland is a mansion . . . on a 13.8-acre (5.6 ha) estate in Memphis, Tennessee that was home to Elvis Presley. It is located at 3764 Elvis Presley Boulevard in the vast Whitehaven community about 9 miles (14.5 km) from Downtown and less than four miles (6 km) north of the Mississippi border. It currently serves as a museum. It was opened to the public on June 7, 1982. The site was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on November 7, 1991, and declared a National Historic Landmark on March 27, 2006. Graceland has become one of the most-visited private homes in America with over 650,000 visitors a year.
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.
After Elvis Presley began his career he bought 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 home 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. After several complaints, Presley decided it was necessary for him to move to a property more suitable.
In early 1957, Presley gave his parents, Vernon and Gladys Presley, a $100,000 budget, and asked them to find a “farmhouse” type property to purchase. At the time, Graceland was located several miles beyond Memphis’s 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.
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. 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. Presley, along with his parents Gladys and Vernon Presley, and his grandmother, are buried there in the Meditation Garden. A memorial gravestone for Presley’s stillborn twin brother, Jesse Garon, is also at the site.
On August 16, 1977, Presley died in his bathroom at Graceland allegedly of a heart attack. It was “a wall-to-wall red rug in an upstairs bathroom with threeinch pile in which Elvis died face down, having risen from his reputedly wallhung black ceramic toilet with a seat padded in imitation black leather and having collapsed in the proximity of teddy bears, empty syringes, and an illustrated book of Asian derivasion that coordinated the birth dates of men and women with certain cosmically optimal sexual positions.” Elvis Presley lay in state 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 died. Elvis’ daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, inherited the estate in 1993 when she turned 25.
Graceland was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on November 7, 1991 and designated a National Historic Landmark on March 27, 2006 Graceland was the first site related to rock and roll to be entered in the National Register of Historic Places.
After Elvis Presley’s death in 1977, Vernon Presley served as executor of his estate. Upon his death in 1979, he chose Priscilla to serve as the estate executor for Elvis’ only child, Lisa Marie who was only 11. Graceland itself cost $500,000 a year in upkeep, and expenses had dwindled Elvis’ and Priscilla’s daughter Lisa Marie’s inheritance to only $1 million. Taxes were due on the property, those and other expenses due came to over $500,000. Faced with having to sell Graceland, Priscilla examined other famous houses/museums, and hired a CEO, Jack Soden, to turn Graceland into a moneymaker. Graceland was opened to the public on June 7, 1982. Priscilla’s gamble paid off, after only a month of opening Graceland’s doors the estate made back all the money it had invested. Priscilla Presley became the chairwoman and president of Elvis Presley Enterprises, or EPE, stating at that time she would do so until Lisa Marie reached 21 years of age. The enterprise’s fortunes soared and eventually the trust grew to be worth over $100 million.
An annual procession through the estate and past Elvis’ grave is held on the anniversary of his death. The 20th Anniversary in 1997 had several hundred media groups from around the world that were present resulting in the event gaining its greatest media publicity. The largest gathering assembled on the 25th anniversary in 2002 with one estimate of 40,000 people in attendance, despite the heavy rain.
For many of the hundreds of thousands of people who visit Graceland each year, the visit takes on a quasi-religious perspective. They may plan for years to journey to the home of the ‘King’ of rock and roll. On site, headphones narrate the salient events of Elvis’s life and introduce the relics that adorn the rooms and corridors. The rhetorical mode is hagiographic, celebrating the life of an extraordinary man, emphasizing his generosity, his kindness and good fellowship, how he was at once a poor boy who made good, an extraordinary musical talent, a sinner and substance abuser, and a religious man devoted to the Gospel and its music. At the meditation garden, containing Elvis’s grave, some visitors pray, kneel, or quietly sing one of Elvis’s favorite hymns. The brick wall that encloses the mansion’s grounds is covered with graffiti that express an admiration for the singer as well as petitions for help and thanks for favors granted.