HISTORY OF GRACELAND, ELVIS' HOME
By Jeffrey Schrembs
Graceland Farms began construction in 1939 and completed construction in 1940. The magnificent Estate was built as an exemplary Georgian Colonial style. Graceland Farms originally encompassed 500 acres, with a 25 acre man made fully stocked with regional fish. The Mansion was designed to have wonderful views of the tree lined driveway and all of the beautiful landscaping that covered Graceland with beautiful flowers, trees, shrubs, etc. and encompassed 13.8 acres. Graceland Farms was located in the Whitehaven District of Memphis on Highway 51 (note: this was later named as Elvis Presley Boulevard in appreciation of Elvis) and was purchased by Dr. Thomas D. Moore. Graceland Farms, in contrast to the beautiful "Mansion", was used for the raising and selling of Hereford Cows.
In 1957 Gladys and Vernon had seen Graceland and then Elvis went to see Graceland. Elvis and his Mother fell in love with the home and Vernon, who had watched Elvis be delivered in a "1 one shotgun house in Tupelo" 22 years ago was now contemplating buying this magnificent home.
At the time Elvis, Vernon, and Gladys had seen the hom the Mansion had 10,266 square feet. Numerous times over the years Elvis added to the home and as of 2010 the home is 17,552 square feet (excluding the Racquetball Building) or 19,552 including the Racquetball Building.
Elvis had previously purchased a home in Memphis at 1034 Audubon Drive in Memphis but between the Fans standing outside the home 24/7, the neighbors being inconvenienced and complaining, the Press reporting about the "all night fans" and the neighbors "peace and quiet" being disturbed Elvis and his Family had decided that they needed a larger home that was close enough to get to "town" but further out of Town with a lot of land and security. Graceland Farms fit the criteria.
The Presleys, unbeknown to them, were not the only interested purchasers for Graceland Farms. The "staple of American life" aka" SEARS wanted to buy all the land and build a large store displaying all of their goods to Memphis residents and visitors.
Also, the Church wanted to buy a part of the land so Sears was notified to find out if they would be willing to do so (as they were buying more than enough land for their purposes but their "data" confirmed that Memphis was an "up and coming City" and Highway 51 was planned to become "THE" Highway in Memphis with thousands of consumers going up and down Highway 51 daily.
Vernon was called and told about Sears as well as the Church. Vernon knew that if he did not get this home for Elvis that Elvis would be "shattered" because Elvis wanted his home for his Mother who he (literally) adored. Vernon called Elvis and gave him the news and Elvis knew that Dr. Moore was an honorable and religious man who helped out the community routinely. Elvis was also a very spiritual/religious man and decided that it would be "good" to have others singing and praying to God on the property right next door. So Elvis called Vernon and said "do it" and added one stipulation and that was for Elvis to have a "right of easement" to be able to enter in from the Churches parking lot and go directly into Graceland through this "secret entrance".
Vernon called the Real Estate Agent back and was told they were waiting on Sears to respond. The Real Estate Agent called Dr. Moore to let him know that Elvis was interested, at full price less what the Church wanted in property and Elvis would pay the Church directly for the easement. Dr. Moore was pleased that Elvis allowed the Church options and "impressed" when he learned that Elvis grew up singing Religious Hymns "never drank," did not smoke, always said "yes sir" or "yes mam" to his elders, and was a respectful man who wanted to provide an "easier living" for his family and have a safe "HOME" to return to where he could raise a family and enjoy the beauty of the property and the blessings that God bestowed to all of us.
Sears called back hesitant about letting the Church have some of the property so the Realtor called Vernon to tell him the good news. On March 26, 1957 Vernon, Gladys, and Elvis signed the paperwork (jointly) and purchased Graceland for (approximately $103,000.00. Gladys Presley cried as she was handed the keys to her home as Elvis and Vernon hugged her and Elvis kissed her forehead telling her "I love you," and "I am doing all of this for you momma".
1957 Elvis career was going great, his movies were all hits, his songs sold millions, his relationship with his parents was good and he now owned a Mansion that could allow him options to rest or to play and to add to as Elvis' interests changed.
Interestingly, 9 months later on Christmas Eve Elvis would receive his "hand delivered" Draft Notice. Elvis' 1st Christmas at Graceland went from tears of joy, love, presents, laughing, etc. to Elvis reading and re-reading the draft notice (in semi-shock). In 1958 Elvis, now in the Army, said "things could not get any worse" and yet on August 14, 1958 his beloved Mother Gladys Love Presley passed away. Some of the most "traumatic/emotional" photographs ever taken of Elvis were taken while Elvis and Vernon sat on the front steps of Graceland with their arms around each others' shoulders crying. Repeating "she's gone," "Everything I loved is gone," "Why, why?" and Vernon saying how sorry he was while consoling Elvis.
Elvis first two years at Graceland were filled with "ups and downs". From 1958-1960 Elvis served his term in the US Army and was honorably discharged. When Elvis returned, some things at Graceland "changed" (i.e. paint, trim, way room was used, etc.) but out of respect for his Mother Elvis left as much of her things as they were during her lifetime.
Elvis LOVED Graceland and it truly was his "home". It was fitting, though no less painful to accept, that Elvis died at Graceland and is buried at Graceland with his Mother, Father, and Grandmother. Their head stones rest in the meditation gardens which Elvis had built in the 1960's and thousands of fans come to Graceland each week to see Graceland and to pay their respects.
Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not say that Elvis Fans Worldwide should say a heartfelt "thanks" to Priscilla, Lisa Marie, and Jack Soden for allowing Graceland to be seen and for the professional endeavors they are involved in. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND visiting Graceland, EPE, and/or www.Elvis.com. I also HIGHLY RECOMMEND Elvis Fans Worldwide seeking out, and monetarily supporting, and paying their respects to Marty Lacker, Marty Fike, Billy Smith, Red West, Sonny West, Joe Esposito, Jerry Schilling, etc. Elvis loved these men and they spend the better part of the 50's, 60's, and 70's working with Elvis 24/7. I say aloud THANK YOU and God bless you all in each of your personal and professional endeavors!
We hope that you enjoyed this article.
Take care and God bless.
© 2010 Jeffrey Schrembs ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
This story was authored by Jeff Schrembs, who is an Elvis Presley historian/expert/collector, with permission for his family to publish this story. It remains our hope, and prayers, that one day Jeff will regain more use of his body. With all of his limitations, being in constant pain, and life threatening medical condition Jeff always asks about Elvis "the fans" and once in a while gives us permission to publish articles.
Jeff Schrembs is an Elvis historian who has been collecting Elvis Presley memorabilia for (approximately) 50 years now. Along with owning one of the largest (private) Elvis Presley collections (which include over 100,000 photographs), Jeff Schrembs is an Elvis expert and an advocate for Elvis, the Presley family, Graceland, and the Memphis mafia (who he respects greatly). Jeff Schrembs is highly recognized in the worldwide Elvis Presley community for his outreach to help those disabled or with special needs or those who were abused. In spite of Jeff being permanately disabled Jeff continues to share with the Elvis community worldwide, with the help of the schrembs family, articles such as these.
GATES OF GRACELAND
Having previously written about Graceland, in an online article entitled "How Elvis Came To Own Graceland", many facts remain obscure about Elvis' residency including the famous musical gates.
For those who don't know the history of the property "Graceland" was originally constructed as a primary residence which encompassed 500 acres of farmland. The original owner of the land, and which the original "property deed" was assigned to, was the publisher and owner of the Memphis Daily Appeal named Stephen C. Toff during the Civil War. Mr. Toof named the property after his beloved daughter, Grace Toof.
The granddaughter of Stephen C. Toof, Ruth Moore, inherited the farm from her aunt Grace. In 1939 Ruth Moore, and her husband Dr. Thomas D. Moore, built a two-story residence in the style of the "classical revival". The farm contained the primary residency, the 500 acres of land, and many outbuildings.
The residency was designed by the respected architectural firm in Memphis named Furgriner and Erhman. Incorporated into the design of the home were large rooms in the front of the home so that they could be "opened up"for a musical event that could hold "500 or more people". One of the influences in making this home with music in mind was that Ruth Moore had a daughter that was a musical prodigy, named Ruth Marie, who learned to play the harp and the piano by age four. Ruth Marie became a respected harpist with the Memphis Symphony and she was the one who sold Graceland to Elvis in 1957.
In April of 1957 Elvis moved into Graceland along with Elvis' Mother (Gladys), Father (Vernon), and Grandmother (Vernon's' Mother Minnie Mae) fondly known as "Dodger".
At the time Elvis bought Graceland there were no gates but soon after Elvis went to Abe Saucer and together they designed the custom built gates. It has long been rumored that the inspiration for the musical gates were taken, at least the musical notes, directly from the sheet music from Jailhouse Rock.
Elvis and Abe Saucer agreed to contact out the manufacturing, and installation, of the gates to John Dillars, Jr. of Memphis Doors, Inc.
On April 22, 1957 the musical gates were installed at Graceland at a cost to Elvis (excluding the fees for the design) was $2,400.00.
The gates were installed onto the walls, that surround the property of Graceland, and they were made out of Alabama fieldstone at a cost of $ 65,000.00 to Elvis. Interestingly, during the first year Elvis owned Graceland he spent in excess of $ 500,000.00 to renovate Graceland and this was during a time in America when the "average medium income" was (approximately) $ 4,971 (per the United States Census 1957).
Graceland was located, at the time Elvis originally purchased the home until June of 1971, was located on the Highway named "Highway 52 South in Memphis, Tennessee. In June of 1971 the Memphis City Council officially changed the name from "Highway 51 South" to "Elvis Presley Boulevard". However, the first "official sign", of "Elvis Presley Boulevard", was not erected until January 1972 at a ceremony that took place outside of Graceland whereby the Memphis Mayor, Wyeth Chandler, presented the "official change" to Elvis' Father Vernon Presley. From that date forward Graceland's' official street/mailing address is 3764 Elvis Presley Boulevard.
Some additional information about the gates, by Chris Hopper:
The gates had been measured, welded/constructed/built by the hands of Mr. William Paul Hopper Sr., from Millington, TN, while working for the Tennessee Fabricating Co. Perhaps Mr. Dillars subcontracted the job to Tennessee Fabricating, and the task found its way down to Mr. Hopper, but the physical work was completed by Mr. Hopper. He was a WW2 veteran, and later went on to own his own company where he fabricated roll cages for World of Outlaws sprint cars.
Note: Jeffrey Schrembs has been an Elvis Presley Collector, Expert, Historian and Author for (spproximately five decades). In addition to being a founding member in countless Elvis Presley organizations, clubs, etc. he shares his insight with original articles with Elvis Fans Worldwide. This article is about the famous musical gates at Graceland which was Elvis' home from April 1957 until Elvis' death on August 16, 1977.
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