Graceland ( Home of Elvis Presley)
Purchased by Elvis Presley in 1957, Graceland was to be his home until his death there in 1977. In 1982 it opened to the public, enabling them to tour the house where he lived, and to see many exhibits displaying his possessions such as his outfits, cars, and two aircraft, and to trace his life and success.
Located on the outskirts of Memphis, Tennessee, the property of Graceland was purchased by Elvis Presley in March 1957, for the sum of $102,500, and was where the star lived until his death there on August 16th, 1977.
Built in 1939 it was named after the daughter of the original owner Stephen Toof whose daughter was named Grace. When Elvis obtained the house he liked the name and kept it.
Following Elvis’s death the family was experiencing financial problems as Graceland was costing $500,000 a year to upkeep, it was decided, therefore, to open the house to the public. That was to happen on June 7th, 1982 and it was to recoup the cost of setting the house up within the first month. Today, it has more than 700,000 visitors a year, making it the second most visited home in America, second only to the White House. Members of Elvis’ family lived in the house until 1993.
Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991, in 2006 it was designated a National Historic Landmark due to it possessing national significance.
The two-story house, with five bays in the Colonial Revival style, has 23 rooms and is over 17,500 square feet. The front facade contains a portico with four Corinthian columns. The portico's cornered columns match the pilasters on the front facade. The doorway has a broken arched pediment, a full entablature, and engaged columns. Above the main entrance is a rectangular window, with a shallow iron balcony. The central block's front and side facades are covered with tan Tishomingo limestone from Mississippi and its rear wall is stuccoed, as are the two one-story wings, on the north and south sides. Attached to a wing is an additional one-story wing which is also stuccoed, this was originally a garage that can house up to four cars.
Visitors to the house first go to the Ticketing office set in the exhibition complex which is situated across the road from the house to purchase their ticket and collect an audio guide.
Tickets are for a specific time and when the tour is due to depart visitors are taken across to the house in a shuttle.
On arrival at the house, they enter through the front door. The front door is reached by ascending four stone steps, flanked by two marble lions that ascend from the driveway. This leads into the Entrance Hall which contains a white staircase leading to the upper floor. That floor is not open to visitors as it was there, in the bathroom, that Elvis died.
It was in the living room that Elvis greeted his guests and often entertained friends and family. The 15-foot wide couch was custom-made, as was the 10-foot coffee table. Elvis added mirrors to the wall in 1974 to help make the room appear more spacious. The blue and white colour theme was prevalent in these formal rooms throughout most of the years, although there was a short time when Elvis had it red and gold. The fireplace is one of three in the house and is gas-burning. Elvis was very interested in religion and in 1974 he added the stained glass Peacocks as they were an ancient Christian symbol of eternal life and resurrection.
In the music room, seen through the doorway from the living room, there is a beautiful white grand piano where family and friends often gathered around Elvis at the piano as they spent hours harmonising their favourite songs. Late-night gospel sing-alongs were common when Elvis was at home and also when he was on the road to help him relax and unwind. Elvis said it eased his mood and his mind. Elvis did not have any photos or paintings of himself hanging on the wall, although one was brought in from his father Vernon's office for the tours. There is also a number of photos of Liza, his daughter, taken when she was six years of age.
The formal dining room is where the evening meal was usually served between 9:00 and 10:00 PM with Elvis sitting at the head of the table in front of the window, he would often host 10 or 12 family members and friends around the table. The Italian chandelier is one of three Elvis bought in 1974 and matches the one above the stairs.
The room contains a portrait of Priscilla, his wife, who he married on May 1st, 1967, and Lisa when she was two years old. It was Lisa who inherited Graceland and all her father's things. She and her children would visit often and when they did they would have their meals served at this table. It was in this room that the family had their Christmas tree each year placed in the window, many of the family Christmas photos show Lisa opening her presents and toys in this room, including her tricycle that she rode around the table on the marble floor that Elvis had installed in 1961.
The kitchen had been redecorated several times but it now remains as it had been when last done in the mid-1970s when harvest gold and avocado were very popular.
The stained glass light fixtures were bought at the same time as the crystal chandeliers in the other rooms of the house. Elvis had the latest appliances and his early microwave oven is on display on the worktop, although generally there was always a cook there and they would work on eight-hour shifts to provide meals at any hour.
Downstairs in the basement were Elvis’s rooms for recreation. The TV Room contained three televisions each showing a different channel.
Elvis got that idea from President Johnson who would watch all three networks' news programmes. Elvis liked football, so would watch three games at once. In the room is a jukebox wired to speakers around the house, it holds 100 singles. Also in the room is part of Elvis’s personal record collection. Within the room is a bar which made it ideal for entertaining.
Elvis enjoyed playing pool, and in 1960 purchased a pool table. It was in 1974 that the room was redecorated and the fabric was put on the ceiling and the walls. The fireplace in the room is wood burning but since the fabric was installed it was not used.
Returning up the stairs is the Den, which after Graceland opened to the public, the media called “The Jungle Room”, a name that stuck.
Originally this was a porch on the back of the house but was enclosed and converted into a room in the mid-1960s. It contains a number of animal statues which is where the name “Jungle Room” comes from. This room was used by Elvis to record two of his albums when RCA brought a mobile recording truck to the house.
The upper floor is not open to the public but the desk and furnishings from his upstairs office are on display in one of the adjoining buildings.
The adjoining buildings contain some of the personal effects photographs and portraits.
Elvis was born in a small “shotgun” house on January 8th, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi before his parents moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1948. A model of the house where he was born is one of the items on display.
At the rear of the house is a swimming pool and relaxation area.
Next to this is the meditation Garden which was one of Elvis’s favourite places as he used it for meditation, reflection, and quiet contemplation.
In October 1977, Vernon Presley had the graves of Elvis and his mother Gladys moved here for security reasons. Since then it became the final resting place for other members of his family and their graves can be seen.
On completion of the tour, visitors return in the shuttle to the Exhibition Centre. This originally opened on June 7th,1982. Since then it has expanded with new facilities and attractions having been added, the latest addition to it being on May 25th, 2019.
Depending on the time of the house tour, visitors can either look around the exhibitions before or after the house, or in fact see parts before and after.
The exhibition halls are devoted to aspects of Elvis’s life with each hall displaying artifacts related to specific things telling the story of his life.
There is a hall devoted to his time in the army. Elvis served in the United States Army from March 24, 1958, until March 5, 1960, with service in Germany from October 1st, 1958 until March 2nd, 1960, when he returned to the United States and was discharged. This hall tracks his time in the army.
Elvis starred in 31 feature films as an actor and two theatrically released concert documentary films, all of which enjoyed financial success. For a number of years, he was one of Hollywood’s top box office draws and one of its highest-paid actors starring in 31 feature films. He is believed to have sold more than one billion records worldwide, with 40% of his records being sold outside of the United States. This earnt him 150 gold, platinum, or multi-platinum disks as either albums or singles. A display of these records can be seen in the exhibition.
There are halls showing the performers that influenced him; a display telling the story of his movies; his achievements and the stage costumes that he wore, and the guitars that he used.
There is also a hall devoted to his car collection, which includes: Cadillacs, Mercedes, Lincoln, Ferrari, and two Rolls Royce cars.
His two aircraft can be visited and gone into, these are a 1958 Convair 880, which he purchased in April 1975 and named Lisa Marie, after his daughter.
He spent more than $800,000 having the jet fitted out with a living room, sitting room, private bedroom, and conference room.
He also had a smaller Lockheed Jet Star, customized with a yellow and green interior, which was used for taking Elvis’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, and his staff from city to city on his concert tours.
There are four restaurants, three of which are named after his mother, Gladys, father, Vernon, and grandmother, Minnie Mae, which enable people to obtain food and drink. There is also a number of places that sell souvenirs around the exhibition halls.