Graceland Farms was originally owned by Stephen C. Toof, founder of S.C. Toof & Co., the oldest commercial printing
firm in Memphis, who was previously the pressroom foreman of the Memphis newspaper, the Memphis Daily Appeal. The
“grounds” (before the mansion home was built in 1939) was named after Toof’s daughter, Grace. She inherited the
farm/grounds from her father in 1894. After her death, the property was passed down to her niece Ruth Moore, a
Memphis socialite, who together with her husband, Dr. Thomas Moore, built a 10,266 square feet (953.7 m2) Colonial
Revival style mansion in 1939.
Graceland main entrance sign.
After Elvis Presley began his career he bought a $40,000 home for himself and his family at 1034 Audubon Drive in Memphis.
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, Vernon and Gladys Presley, 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. Presley purchased Graceland on March 19, 1957 for the amount of $102,500. Later that year, Presley invited Richard Williams and Buzz Cason “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.” 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’.
After Gladys died in 1958, Vernon married Dee Stanley in 1960, the couple lived there for a time. 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 Dylan Drive which ran alongside Elvis’ estate.” According to Mark Crisping Miller, Graceland became for Presley “the home of the organization that was himself, was tended by a large vague clan of Presley’s and deputy Presley’s, 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’ favorite records” and that the singer himself “would spend hours in his bedroom, watching his property on a closed-circuit television. According to the singer’s cousin, Billy Smith, Presley 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. Priscilla Beau lieu also lived at Graceland for five years before she and Elvis married in Las Vegas on May 1, 1967. Their daughter Lisa Marie Presley was born on February 1, 1968, and spent the first years of her life on the estate until her parents divorced in 1972, and she moved to California with her mother. 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.
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.
Designation of Graceland mansion as a National Historic Landmark in 2006 On August 16, 1977, Presley died in his bathroom at Graceland allegedly of a heart attack. Elvis Presley lay in state in a 900-pound copper-lined coffin just inside the foyer while over 3,500 of Elvis’ mourning fans passed by to pay their respects. A private funeral with 200 mourners was held on August 18, 1977 in the house, with the casket placed in front of the stained glass doorway of the music room. Graceland continued to be occupied by members of the family until the death of Elvis’ aunt Delta in 1993, who had moved in at Elvis’ invitation after her husband died. Elvis’ daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, inherited the estate in 1993 when she turned 25.Presley, his parents Gladys & Vernon Presley, and his grandmother are buried on the property in the Meditation Garden. A memorial gravestone for Presley’s stillborn twin brother, Jesse Gabon, is also at the site.
Graceland was listed in the National 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.