Elvis Presley died at the estate on August 16, 1977. Presley, his parents Gladys and Vernon Presley, and his grandmother, are buried there in what is called the Meditation Garden. A memorial gravestone for Presley's stillborn twin brother, Jesse Garon, is also at the site.
Graceland Farms was originally owned by S.C. Toof, founder of S.C. Toof & Co., a commercial printing firm in Memphis, who was previously the pressroom foreman of the Memphis newspaper, the Memphis Daily Appeal. The grounds were named after Toof's daughter, Grace, who inherited the farm. Soon after, the portion of the land designated as Graceland today was given to her nephews and niece. It was Grace Toof's niece, Ruth Moore, who, in 1939 together with her husband Dr. Thomas Moore, built the present mansion in the Colonial Revival style.
Architecture and modificationsThe mansion is constructed of tan limestone and consists of twenty-three rooms, including eight bedrooms and bathrooms. The entrance way contains four Temple of the Winds 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-themed gate, a swimming pool, a racquetball court, and the famous "Jungle Room" which features an indoor waterfall, among other modifications. In February and October 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.
One of Presley's better known modifications was the addition of the Meditation Garden, where he, his parents Gladys and Vernon, and grandmother are buried. A small stone memorializes Elvis' twin brother Jesse Garon who died at birth. The Meditation Garden was opened to the public in 1978. Graceland was officially opened to the public on June 7, 1982.
According to critics such as Albert Goldman, "'nothing in the house is worth a dime." In chapter 1 of his book, Elvis (1981), the author describes Graceland as looking like a brothel: "it appears to have been lifted from some turn-of-the-century bordello down in the French Quarter of New Orleans." And he dismisses the interior as "gaudy," "garish" and "phony," adding that "King Elvis's obsession with royal red reaches an intensity that makes you gag." When "people who to a real degree shared Elvis Presley’s class background, and whose lives were formed by his music," visited the inside of Graceland, Greil Marcus says in similar terms, they "have returned with one word to describe what they saw: 'Tacky.' Tacky, garish, tasteless — words others translated as white trash." In Graceland: Going Home With Elvis, Karal Ann Marling deals with the decorative arts that makes Elvis' mansion seem a creation as well as a site. Graceland's "act of faith in serial novelty," Marling argues, synthesized the "intense concern for personal style" that made B. B. King notice a teenage Elvis in a pawnshop years before he was famous and the fashion sense informing the "theme clothes" of the '70's — "carapace[s] of sheer, radiant glory." However, during their four-year relationship, Presley's girlfriend Linda Thompson decorated much of Graceland in her own style. Even Presley himself was said to "balk at the extent of her red fur and leopard skin look."
Graceland grew from 10,266 square feet (953.7 m2) when originally bought by Presley to 17,552 square feet (1,630.6 m2) 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 three years to complete.
Presleys 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 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. After Gladys 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 Presley in late 1972.
Graceland was Lisa Marie Presley's first home after her birth on February 1, 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 would go to Graceland to celebrate Christmas together. Lisa Marie Presley often goes back to Graceland for visits.
Lisa Marie Presley inherited the estate. In 2005 she sold 85 percent of it.
When he 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."
The Meditation Garden, designed and built by architect Bernard Grenadier, has been noted as a preferred place of Presley in the property, where he often went to reflect on any problems or situations that arose during his life.
Elvis Standing In Foyer
Parents Bedroom Decorated For Christmas
His Parents Bedroom
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' estate."
On August 16, 1977, Presley died in his bathroom at Graceland allegedly of a heart attack. However, there are conflicting reports as to the cause of his death. According to the well known Presley biographer Peter Guralnick, the singer "had thrown up after being stricken, apparently while seated on the toilet." 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."
Presley made lists outlining items to be kept in Graceland at all times. Items included:
Notable visitorsBuzz Cason to visit the Whitehaven neighborhood of Memphis where Graceland is located "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 50's, 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'.
On June 30, 2006, when US President George W. Bush hosted Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for a tour of the mansion, it became one of a few residences 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 6, 2010, Prince Albert II, the Principality of Monaco's Head of State, and his fiancée Charlene Wittstock, on a vacation tour of the United States, also toured Graceland. Albert explained: "If you're on a summer holiday, you've got to come at this time of year. I've always wanted to come to Graceland. Charlene and my friends wanted to be here today for this visit, Elvis touched our lives as well and the lives of so many people. We wanted to pay our respects and see what this place was all about."
Elvis Relaxing In The Living Room
On May 26, 2013, Sir Paul McCartney visited Graceland, and left a guitar pick on Elvis's grave, and said, "so Elvis can play in heaven."
Elvis's Upstairs Office
Elvis's Upstairs Office
Elvis's Upstairs Office
Graceland's Gates at the Guardhouse
Elvis Standing At The Gates To Graceland
The 20th Anniversary in 1997 had the biggest crowd in Memphis for an Elvis Week. 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.
Media, TV Room
Gladys And Elvis and Her Pearls
Vernon's OfficeFor 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 museum containing many Elvis artifacts, like some of his famous Vegas jumpsuits, awards, gold records, the Lisa Marie jetliner, and Elvis' extensive auto collection.
Bedroom In The Plane
Elvis Presley Auto Museum Across The Street
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, Private Presley and the `68 Special exhibits; these can be found across the street on the plaza. The fieldstone wall that Presley installed is still there, and has several years' worth of graffiti from visitors, who simply refer to it as "the wall".
Elvis Riding A Horse At Graceland
A Young Elvis At Graceland
Tours of the museums at Graceland are available, though no flash photography or video cameras are allowed inside. There is an audio tour of the Graceland mansion. The upper 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 upper floor, which also contains Elvis' bedroom, has been untouched since the day Elvis died and is rarely seen by non-family members. Visitors park across the street, boarding shuttle buses to begin the tour of Graceland. Attendants issue headphones, and tourists are individually snapped by a souvenir photographer in front of a painted wall with Graceland's famous music gates. Tour buses drive across Elvis Presley Blvd. through the smallish Music gates. Down the long winding drive the bus stops in front of stone lions that stand watch at the wide red brick front steps. It was behind these lions that over 3500 of Elvis' mourning fans passed by to see his body in its casket. The house is much bigger than expected, photos being of the main part only. A tour guide stands at the closed doors to give a brief history of Graceland starting with the woman (Grace) it was named for and concluding with the fact that Elvis bought Graceland when he was only 22 years old. Finally the door opens to allow entry through the front door where, almost directly overhead, perhaps forever unseen by the public, is where Elvis died, on his bathroom floor.
Upon entering Graceland, the white staircase, filled with reflective mirrors, is directly in front. To the right is the Living Room with the adjoining Music Room, the first room to be presented on the tour. There are guard rails up prohibiting entry to the Living Room and only part of the Music Room can be seen, hidden behind a doorway framed by vivid large peacocks set in stained glass. In this doorway, in front of the stained glass, Elvis' casket was placed for the funeral held in his home. Visible in the Music Room is a black baby grand piano and an old 1950's style TV. The Living Room contains a 15-foot-long (4.6 m) white sofa against the wall overlooking Graceland's 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. These rooms are then followed with a walk past the grand staircase to Elvis' parents' room.
In Elvis' parents' bedroom, white is the predominant color. A velvet-looking dark purple bedspread drapes onto the floor at the foot of the queen size bed. The walls, dresser, bed and carpet are bright white, protected from visitors by a guard rail. To the right is the closet, sealed with clear glass showing four or five of the dresses Gladys wore. To the left is a pink full bathroom, almost obscured from sight because of a velvet rope barrier.
kitchen (which was not open to the public until 1995, as Elvis' aunt Delta used it until her death in 1993) and continues through the basement, where Elvis' media room with its three televisions can be seen. There is also a bar and billiards room. The tour continues upstairs again, through the famous Jungle Room. After the Jungle room, it exits to the backyard, past Lisa Marie's childhood swing set, to a small white building that served as his father's office. Through the office there is a small room containing a scale model of the home where he was born in Tupelo, Mississippi. Elvis' shooting range is housed in what used to be an old smokehouse.
Down the sloping lawn, past horses grazing behind neat white fences, visitors enter the "Trophy Room". Originally this space was a sidewalk behind the house that Elvis had enclosed to store his many items of appreciation. Just inside is Elvis' famous gold lamé suit from his early years.
In the Trophy Room many walls display records, movie posters, old time memorabilia of lipstick and shoes, even a 1950s Elvis doll. Among items there are the three Grammys Elvis won, Priscilla's wedding dress, Elvis' wedding tuxedo, Lisa Marie's toy chest and baby clothes and the famous hall of Elvis' gold records and awards. The Trophy Room then winds down the halls through a display of his 68 Comeback, featuring his leather suit, his personal copies of his movie scripts, costumes he wore in many of his movies and a few of his trademark jumpsuits. Also in this room are all the awards and distinctions Elvis received and a display of the many canceled checks Elvis wrote to various charities.
Just past the pool area is the Meditation Garden where Elvis, his mother Gladys, his father Vernon and grandmother Minnie Mae Hood Presley lie buried. A separate building across the street houses a car collection, which includes Elvis' Pink Cadillac and not far away his two planes Lisa Marie (a Convair 880) and Hound Dog II (a Lockheed JetStar) are on display.
National historic landmarkNational 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. The nomination was prepared and submitted by college student Jennifer Tucker of Memphis.
Recent developmentsIn 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.
Sillerman, who has been speaking with investors and developers, plans to spend between $250 million to $500 million on redeveloping the area surrounding Graceland. Among his plans are a new luxury hotel of more than 500 rooms and a convention center, an amphitheater for live concerts, restaurants and retail, plus a new 80,000-square-foot (7,400 m2) visitor's center and museum adjacent to the Graceland mansion. 2009 was set as the target date to begin work on the project but first it has to be approved by the Memphis City Council.
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 due to the rough surrounding neighborhood.
In pop culture
- The title of Paul Simon's album Graceland and the title track was inspired by Elvis' home. The title song, which presents Graceland as a holy place, also won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year a year later. The song "Walking in Memphis" by Marc Cohn and later Cher features Graceland prominently. In the second verse of "Walking in Memphis," Marc Cohn references Graceland and the Jungle Room.
- The film 3000 Miles to Graceland is about a group of criminals who plan to rob a casino during an international Elvis week, and to make it easier, they are all disguised as Elvis impersonators.
- There is a movie Finding Graceland starring Harvey Keitel with Johnathon Schaech, as Keitel being an impersonator who claims to be the actual real Elvis after Schaech picks him up as a hitch-hiker trying to get a ride to Memphis.
- In the ABC sitcom Modern Family, Graceland is mentioned in the Season Two episode "Mother Tucker." Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell) explains to another character that it is not an amusement park, but in fact the resting place of "The King" (Elvis).
- While touring across the United States, the band members in the rock music "mockumentary" This Is Spinal Tap gather around Elvis Presley's grave at Graceland and sing a verse of "Heartbreak Hotel" a capella in three-part harmony.