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Graceland is the name of the 13.8 acre estate and large white-columned mansion that once belonged to Elvis Presley, located at 3734 Elvis Presley Boulevard in Memphis, Tennessee, USA. It is located south of Downtown Memphis, less than four miles north of the Mississippi border. It currently serves as a museum. It was opened to the public in 1982, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on November 7, 1991 and declared a National Historic Landmark on March 27, 2006.
Elvis Presley, who died at the estate on August 16, 1977, his parents Gladys and Vernon Presley, and his grandmother, are buried there in what is called the Meditation Gardens.
Graceland was originally owned by S. E. Toof, publisher of the Memphis newspaper, "The Memphis Daily Appeal". The grounds were named after Toof's daughter, Grace, who would come to inherit the farm. Soon after, the portion of the land designated as Graceland today was given to a niece, Ruth Moore, who, in 1939 together with her husband Dr. Thomas Moore, had the present American "colonial" style mansion built.
Elvis purchased Graceland in early 1957 for approximately $100,000 after vacating an East Memphis house located at 1034 Audubon Drive. Because of privacy and security concerns, and the opposition of neighbors to the enthusiastic behavior of the many fans who slowly cruised by his home. Elvis moved into Graceland together with his father Vernon Presley and his mother Gladys. After his mother died in 1958, and Vernon married Dee Stanley in 1960, the couple lived there for a time. Wife-to-be Priscilla Beaulieu also lived at Graceland for five years before she and Elvis married. After their marriage in Las Vegas on May 1, 1967, Priscilla lived in Graceland five more years until she separated from Elvis in late 1972.
On August 16, 1977, Elvis died in his bathroom at Graceland allegedly of a heart attack, according to one medical examiner report at the time. However, there are conflicting reports as to the cause of his death. According to Peter Guralnick, the singer "had thrown up after being stricken, apparently while seated on the toilet. It looked to the medical investigator as if he had 'stumbled or crawled several feet before he died.' " The author adds that "drug use was heavily implicated in this unanticipated death of a middle-aged man with no known history of heart disease...no one ruled out the possibility of anaphylactic shock brought on by the codeine pills he had gotten from his dentist."
After initially being buried at Forrest Hill Cemetery, and following an attempt to rob his grave, Presley's remains were moved to Graceland. The estate has become a pilgrimage for Elvis fans across the world.
Architecture and modifications
The mansion is constructed of tan limestone and consists of twenty-three rooms, including eight bedrooms and bathrooms. The entrance way contains several Corinthian columns and two large lions perched on both sides of the portico.
After purchasing the property Presley carried out extensive modifications to suit his needs and tastes, including: a fieldstone wall surrounding the grounds, a wrought-iron music styled gate, a swimming pool, a racquetball court, and the famous "jungle room" which features an indoor waterfall, among other modifications.
One of Presleys better known modifications was the addition of the Meditation Gardens, where he, his parents Gladys and Vernon, and grandmother are buried. The garden was opened to the public in 1978.
For more details concerning the decorative arts that makes Elvis's mansion seem a creation as well as a site, see Karal Ann Marling, Graceland: Going Home With Elvis (Harvard University Press, 1996). Graceland's "act of faith in serial novelty," the author argues, synthesized the "intense concern for personal style" that made B. B. King notice a teenaged Elvis in a pawnshop years before he was famous and the fashion sense informing the "theme clothes" of the '70s ≈ "carapace[s] of sheer, radiant glory."
Graceland grew from 10,266 square feet when originally bought by Presley to 17,552 square feet today.
Managers of the complex announced a major renovation project that will include a new visitors center, a 500-room convention hotel and high-tech museum displays. The current visitors center, souvenir shops, the 128-room Heartbreak Hotel, and museums will be torn down and replaced with the new facilities. The project will take approximately 3 years to complete.
Presley at Graceland
According to Mark Crispin Miller, Graceland became for Elvis "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's favorite records" and that the singer himself "would spend hours in his bedroom, watching his property on a closed-circuit television."
Graceland was Lisa Marie Presley's first official home, and residence after her birth on February the 1st 1968 and her childhood home,although her main state of residence was California where she lived with her mother after she divorced Elvis when Lisa was in elementary school. Every year at Christmas time Lisa Marie Presley, and all her family go to Graceland to celebrate Christmas together. Lisa Marie Presley often goes back to Graceland for visits. When she turned 30, Lisa Marie inherited the estate and she sold 85 percent of it.
Elvis's grave at Graceland.
According to Brad Olsen, "Some of the rooms at Graceland testify to the brilliance and quirkiness of Elvis Presley. The TV room in the basement is where he often watched three television sets at once, and was within close reach of a wet bar."
Elvis absolutely felt at home in this place. When he would tour, staying in hotels, "the rooms would be remodelled 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."
The Meditation Gardens, designed and built by architect and designer Bernard Grenadier, has been noted as a preferred place of Elvis in the property, where he often went to reflect on any problems or situations that arose during his life.
According to the singer's cousin Billy Smith, Elvis 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."
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 deceased mother. 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's estate."
The book Elvis by the Presleys reveals several details concerning the singer's life at Graceland including his obsessions and passions when staying at home.
Visits to Graceland
In 1957, Presley invited Richard Williams and Buzz Cason to visit the Whitehaven neighborhood of Memphis, where Graceland is located. They went there in Chester Power's '55 chevy "to get a close look at this mansion Elvis had told us about. ... 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."
"In the late 50s, 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'. Had the old Cold Warrior taken the trip and then lived to see the King's demise, he might have allowed himself a very Soviet laugh at that." (John Harris)
On August 16, 1977, on one of Lisa Marie Presley's visits to Graceland, Elvis died. She was only 9 years old at the time.
On June 30, 2006, when US President George W. Bush hosted Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for a tour of the mansion, it became the only residence on American soil other than an Embassy, the White House, or any of the other Presidential retreats to have hosted a joint-visit by a sitting US president and a head of a foreign government. (Koizumi, who served as Prime Minister of Japan from 2001 to 2006, is an avid Elvis Presley fan and even shares Presley's January 8 birthday.)
On August 14, 2007 (2 days before the 30th anniversary of Elvis' death) Dale Earnhardt Jr and his grandmother Martha Earnhardt unveiled his #8 Budweiser/Elvis Chevrolet that he raced at the 2007 Chevy Rock and Roll 400 in Richmond the following September 8.
After Elvis Presley's death in 1977, Priscilla Presley served as executor of his estate. Graceland itself cost $500,000 a year in upkeep, and expenses had dwindled Elvis's and Priscilla's daughter Lisa Marie's inheritance to $5 million. Priscilla examined other famous house/museums, and hired a CEO to turn Graceland into a moneymaker. She became the chairwoman and president of Elvis Presley Enterprises. After Graceland opened to the public in 1982, the enterprise's fortunes soared and eventually the trust grew to be worth over $100 million. Graceland is now statistically the second most visited private residence in the United States, behind the White House.
An annual procession through the estate and past Elvis's grave is held on the anniversary of his death. The largest gathering assembled on the twenty-fifth anniversary in 2002. One estimate was of 40,000 people in attendance, despite the heavy rain.
The biggest crowd in Memphis for an Elvis Week is generally regarded as the 20th Anniversary in 1997. At this time several hundred media groups from around the world were present and the event gained its greatest media publicity as an estimated 50,000 fans visited the city.
The Graceland grounds include a museum containing many Elvis artifacts, like some of his famous Vegas jumpsuits, awards, gold records, the Lisa Marie jetliner, and Elvis's extensive auto collection. Recently Sirius Satellite Radio installed an all-Elvis Presley channel on the grounds. The service's subscribers all over North America can hear Presley's music from Graceland around the clock. Two new attractions have been added, Elvis Presley After Dark and Elvis 56; these can be found on the plaza.
Tours of the museums at Graceland are available, though no flash photography or video cameras are allowed inside. The tour of the Graceland mansion is an audio tour, and the upper floor is not open to visitors, partially to avoid any improper focus on the bathroom which was the site of his death. The upper floor, which also contains Elvis's bedroom, has been untouched since the day Elvis died. The tour enters through the front door, the living room with adjoining music room are first to be presented. These rooms are then followed with a walk past the grand stair case to Elvis' parents room. Next the tour takes you into the dining room and the kitchen. The tour continues through the basement, where Elvis's media room with its three televisions can be viewed. A bar and billiards room can also be found. The tour continues back upstairs, through the famous Jungle Room. After the Jungle room, you are taken to a small room that has displays of some of Elvis' personal belongings. These items are all carefully selected from Elvis' private sanctuary upstairs, which again is not part of the tour. Items include jewelry to Elvis' personal desk, some random items of clothing and a scale model of the home he grew up in in Mississippi. Then outside you are rounded through Elvis' shooting range. Then into his "Trophy Room". Originally this space was just a sidewalk behind the house that Elvis had enclosed to store his many items of appreciation. At the doorway is Elvis' famous gold lame suit from his early years. You then proceed down a hallway lined with gold records.
The tour then winds you through a display of his 68 Comeback, featuring his leather suit and some gowns worn by Priscilla. You are then taken back outside to view his still fully functioning stable of horses. Then into Elvis racket ball court. The court now houses a display of Elvis' trademark sequined "jumpsuits". All are presented face forward except for the last suit in the room. The last jumpsuit worn by Elvis is turned backwards as if walking away from you. Also in this room are all the awards and distinctions posthumously presented to Elvis'. Then you are taken into the Meditation Garden. Buried here are Elvis, mother Gladys, father Vernon and grandmother.
A separate building houses a car collection and not far away his two planes Lisa Marie (a Convair 880) and Hound Dog II (a Lockheed JetStar) are on display.
One of the most impressive displays is the trophy room off the main house, displaying Elvis's huge collection of gold and platinum records and other awards, stage costumes, photographs and more.
National Historic Landmark
Graceland was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on November 7, 1991. On March 27, 2006, Gale Norton, United States Secretary of the Interior, designated Graceland a National Historic Landmark≈joining the White House, the Alamo, Pearl Harbor Naval Base, Dealey Plaza, and Mount Vernon. However, as there are almost 2,500 sites in the United States sharing this designation, the elevation, according to John Harris, "falls slightly short", as such legendary sites also include "the Frederick Bagg Bonanza Farm in North Dakota and Kentucky's Louisville Water Company Pumping Station."
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 that also owns 19 Entertainment, creator of the American Idol TV show.
In February 2006, CKX Chairman Bob Sillerman announced plans to turn Graceland into an international tourist destination on a par with the Disney or Universal theme parks, sprucing up the area mansion and doubling the 600,000 annual visitors. Sillerman’s goal is to enhance the "total fan experience" at Graceland to compel visitors to spend more time and money. The company is working with the Bob Weis Design Island Associates, based in Orlando, Florida, to improve the tourist area around Graceland, which is located in an economically-depressed area of Memphis, while keeping intact the historic home.
Sillerman, who has been speaking with investors and developers, said he will ask local governments to help improve some of the public spaces around Graceland. He wants to expand the visitor center and exhibit space to showcase thousands of pieces of Elvis memorabilia that have never been seen. A new hotel is a possibility, or an expansion to the nearby Heartbreak Hotel.
While visitor numbers grew to around 700,000, by 2005, and partly due to the negative impact on US tourism of 9/11, visitor numbers at Graceland had reportedly declined to around 600,000.
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