Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Memphis

Monday, 24 June 2019 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Museums, Exhibitions, Palaces, Castles, Manors, Parks
Reading Time:  15 minutes

© PaddyBriggs

© PaddyBriggs

Graceland is a mansion on a 13.8-acre (5.6 ha) estate in Memphis, Tennessee, once owned by the singer and actor Elvis Presley. His daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, has been the owner of Graceland since the passing of her father. 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 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, and declared a National Historic Landmark on March 27, 2006. Graceland is the second most-visited house in the U.S. after the White House, with over 650,000 visitors a year.

Exterior
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.

Interior – First floor
Graceland is 17,552 square feet (1,630.6m²) 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 and Moody Blue; 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.

Second floor
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 bath room 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.

Basement: TV and billiard rooms
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.

Pool Table © Thomas R Machnitzki/cc-by-3.0 Living Room © flickr.com - David Brossard/cc-by-sa-2.0 © flickr.com - Joseph Novak/cc-by-2.0 Elvis Presley's Grave © flickr.com - Lindsey Turner/cc-by-2.0 Dining Area © Thomas R Machnitzki/cc-by-3.0 The Jungle Room © Egghead06 © PaddyBriggs
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Elvis Presley's Grave © flickr.com - Lindsey Turner/cc-by-2.0
Estate
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 here 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.

Tourist destination
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. Known as Elvis Week, it includes a full schedule of speakers and events, including the only Elvis Mass at St. Paul’s Church, the highlight for many Elvis fans of all faiths. 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. One of the largest gatherings assembled on the 25th anniversary in 2002 with one estimate of 40,000 people in attendance, despite the heavy rain. On the 38th anniversary of Elvis’ passing, an estimated 30,000 people attended the Candlelight Vigil during the night of August 15–16, 2015. On the 40th anniversary of Elvis’ passing, on August 15–16, 2017, at least 50,000 fans were expected to attend the Candlelight Vigil. No official figure seems to have been released, maybe because, for the first time, attendees had to pay at least the lowest tour fare, $28.75, to cover the extra security costs due to a larger than usual crowd. 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.

The Graceland grounds include a new exhibit complex, Elvis Presley’s Memphis, which includes a new car museum, Presley Motors, which houses Elvis’ Pink Cadillac. The complex features new exhibits and museums, as well as a studio for Sirius Satellite Radio‘s all-Elvis Presley channel. The service’s subscribers all over North America can hear Presley’s music from Graceland around the clock. Not far away his two planes Lisa Marie (a Convair 880) and Hound Dog II (a Lockheed JetStar) are on display. The jets are owned by Graceland and are on permanent display at Graceland. In early August 2005, Lisa Marie Presley sold 85% of the business side of her father’s estate. She kept the Graceland property itself, as well as the bulk of the possessions found therein, and she turned over the management of Graceland to CKX, Inc., an entertainment company (on whose board of directors Priscilla Presley sits) that also owns 19 Entertainment, creator of the American Idol TV show. Graceland Holdings LLC, led by managing partner Joel Weinshanker, is the majority owner of EPE. Lisa Marie Presley retains a 15% ownership in the company. Lisa Marie Presley retains 100% sole personal ownership of Graceland Mansion itself and its over 13-acre original grounds and her father’s personal effects – meaning costumes, wardrobe, awards, furniture, cars, etc. She has made the mansion property and her father’s personal effects permanently available for tours of Graceland and for use in all of EPE’s operations. In May 2016, Graceland welcomed its 20 millionth visitor.

Read more on Graceland, VisitTheUSA.de – Graceland and Wikipedia Graceland (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.






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