Graceland: 30 years ago

Graceland: 30 years ago

The history of the house

Graceland: The mansion located at 3764 Elvis Presley Boulevard and the land it sits on was once a farm dubbed “Graceland Farms” by its owner S.C. Toof, who was founder of the S.C. Toof & Company printing firm in Memphis in the early 1900s. Named after his daughter Grace, the plot of land that Graceland sits on now was owned by Grace’s nephews and niece who built the original colonial mansion.

In 1957 when Elvis Presley’s fame began to peak and he and his family’s privacy was becoming non-existent, he gave his parents $100,000 to find a farmhouse with a little more privacy for them to live. They had put down money on it and after viewing the property for himself, Elvis fell in love immediately with Graceland.

After the Presleys took possession of the estate, Elvis had several modifications done to the home to suit the needs of a traveling rock 'n' roll star that didn’t get to enjoy the comforts of home too much. A fieldstone wall was built up around the property and the front gate was custom made into the musical note icon it is today.

Most notably, “The Jungle Room,” which is where Elvis spent most of his time and was later made into a recording studio and recorded his last two albums there. From Elvis Presley Boulevard Memphis, Tennessee and Moody Blue.

“The Meditation Garden” was added, complete with a fountain in the middle of it. It was a place where the King sat and contemplated on his complicated life. Needless to say, he had quite a few stresses in his life and it was here that he came to think about them, discuss them and it is also here that he was ultimately buried along with his mother, father and there is also an epitaph memorializing his twin.

I have had the honor of touring the Meditation Garden in 1978 when it opened to the public. There were news cameras and women fainting at his gravesite. I was only eight years old.

After his death, Vernon had turned over the reigns to Presley’s estate to Elvis’ ex-wife Priscilla, who was wrought with the choice to sell the estate because of dwindling funds and owed taxes on the property. She instead opened Graceland up for tourism on June 7, 1982. The funds from the first year alone helped catch up on past bills and jettisoned the life of Graceland as a tourist hotspot, a pilgrimage for Elvis fans and a historic site and museum.

Elvis’ daughter, Lisa Marie, is sole owner of the mansion and the property within the estate. She sold 85 percent of the business side of her father’s estate to CKX, Inc. where her mother sits on the board.

Graceland Tours now include a souvenir shop, auto museum, upscale hotel, restaurant and amphitheatre. Upcoming projects for Graceland include more museums, a concert venue and transforming the seedy surrounding neighborhood into an entertainment district.