In March of 2006, Elvis Presley’s Graceland estate was raised to the level of
Washington’s Mount Vernon and Jefferson’s Monticello. It officially became a National
Of course, long before the Secretary of the Interior made this public announcement,
Presley fans worldwide had made his home a popular tourist destination; Graceland
already attracted more than 600,000 people every year. The designation of his home as a
national landmark celebrates his widely-known contributions to American culture and
Elvis Presley is among the most influential figures in 20th century music and pop culture.
He was most famous as a musician and was indicted into three halls of fame: the Rock
and Roll Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the GMA Gospel Hall of
Fame. No other artist has been honored by all three establishments. Presley also
triumphed on television and starred in 33 movies.
Shortly after his rise to stardom, Elvis felt a need for privacy. In 1957 he moved out of
working-class East Memphis and purchased the 14-acre Graceland estate. The price tag:
$103,000 – easily purchased with proceeds from his first hit record, “Heartbreak Hotel”.
Graceland would be Elvis’s primary residence for the next 20 years. His parents lived
there too, as did his wife-to-be Priscilla Beaulieu and eventually their daughter, Lisa
Marie. Elvis Presley died in an upstairs Graceland bathroom in 1977.
The Graceland estate is located south of downtown Memphis and is just a few miles
north of the Mississippi border. The grounds were named after Grace Toot, the daughter
of the home’s original owner. Grace inherited the property while it was still farmland.
She gifted the land to a niece, Ruth Moore, who had the mansion built.
The colonial-style mansion is constructed of tan limestone with white columns. Two
stone lions seem to guard the front entrance. Elvis Presley expanded the living space
from about 10,000 square feet to 17,000 square feet. He is known for his extravagance
and a unique sense of design; some call it kitschy. The home reflected Elvis well; he
became so comfortable there that when he traveled, his hotel rooms were pre-decorated
with furniture sent from Graceland.
Elvis’s indoor and outdoor estate expansions were considerable. For privacy, he
constructed a fieldstone wall around the grounds. (Today it is full of visitors’ graffiti.) He
added a wrought-iron privacy gate to the outside drive; it’s decorated with iron musical
notes. He installed a swimming pool with adjacent jukebox in his parents’ bedroom, and
the famous Jungle Room has a waterfall. Elvis also kept several televisions in the
basement and was known to watch three simultaneously.
Today, audio tours begin at the lion-flanked portico. Visitors then see Elvis’s living room
and the adjacent music room. The tour moves to the kitchen and dining room, and then
downstairs to the basement to see side-by-side TVs, a bar, and a billiards table. The tour
continues upstairs in the Jungle Room. Elvis memorabilia are displayed throughout, with
his sequined jumpsuits being especially prominent. Outdoors, people can see his trophy
collection, horse stables, and a shooting range. A separate building displays his car
collection and two small airplanes. Public tours show much of the mansion but avoid the
top floor where Elvis passed away.
Elvis died at Graceland in 1977. Medical reports vary; he apparently had a drug-induced
heart attack. He was buried at a public cemetery but people attempted to rob his grave.
Presley’s remains were moved to his mansion’s Meditation Gardens, where the performer
joined his deceased parents and grandmother. The August 16th anniversary of Elvis
Presley’s death is a particularly popular time for Graceland visits. Despite a downpour of
rain through Memphis, the twenty-fifth anniversary of his death drew a procession of
After Elvis’s death, Priscilla Presley managed the property and greatly increased its value
by promoting tourism. Graceland opened to the public in 1982. The Presleys’ daughter,
Lisa Marie Presley, inherited the estate when she turned 30 years old. She kept the
mansion but sold 85% of the grounds to a private management company in 2005. The
new owner, CKX, Inc., plans to make Graceland a theme park on par with Disneyland.