(This is the second in a five part series on Elvis Presley and the places he loved.)
When Ruth Moore’s daughter, Ruth Marie, sold the Colonial Revival house that her parents had built on a piece of land named after her great aunt (who bequeathed the land to Mrs. Moore), she surely never considered the possibility that it would become the most famous home in America.
Mrs. Moore had inherited the 13.8 acres from her aunt, Grace, for whom the property was named Graceland. Nine miles from downtown Memphis, it was in the rural countryside when Elvis Presley bought it in 1956 for $102,500. As part of the deal, Elvis paid down $10,000 and traded the family’s nice home at 1034 Audubon Drive to the real estate company for an additional $55,000 toward the sale.
Interestingly, two factors played in Ruth Marie Cobb selling the property to Elvis: the YMCA was planning on buying it so Elvis upped his offer. Also, Mrs. Ruth Moore had previously donated a piece of the acreage to Graceland Christian Church (now known as the Disciples of Christ and located across the state line from Graceland in South Haven, MS). Elvis agreed that the church could stay where it was and the deal was done.
The King of Rock and Roll was like most Americans: he took out a 25-year mortgage loan to pay the remaining $37,500. If he did not pay off the loan, then it outlived him by four years.
Later, when the church moved across the state line, Elvis bought the property and that is now where the offices of Elvis Presley Enterprise (EPE) are located.
Incredibly, every home in which Elvis lived is either designated as a landmark or has special handsome markers. Graceland was first designated in the National Register of Historic Places followed in 2006 by the strongest honor of all: a National Historic Landmark.
The state of Mississippi designated his birth home — a tiny, shotgun house in Tupelo — as a historic landmark. Additionally, the projects — Lauderdale Court — where he spent his teenage years (a place that is still handsomely maintained and is located near St. Jude’s hospital) has a substantial marker noting that Elvis and his family lived in apartment 328 from October, 1949 to January, 1953. A little known fact is that apartment can be rented by the night for fans who want to sleep where Elvis’ music dreams first began. The apartment is duplicated as much as possible to when the Presleys lived there.
Within walking distance is Elvis’ high school, Humes, which, too, is proudly marked. In 1956, Elvis, using proceeds from his million-dollar selling song, “Heartbreak Hotel,” bought 1034 Audubon Drive and moved him and his parents there. It soon proved too accessible to fans which sent the Presleys to the large, gated property with acreage and a Colonial Revival style mansion. It would become Elvis’ heart and home for the rest of his life.
It is the most popular residence in America, rivaled only by the White House in numbers of visitors annually. Close to three quarters of a million people file through to see the white living room, the dining room with the original china that Elvis used daily and, of course, the famous Jungle Room.
Music executive Mike Curb bought the Audubon property to preserve the history while Graceland’s honors as a National Historic Landmark and spot on the National Register make it the first rock and roll site to garner such distinctions.
The first time that Tink and I visited together, it was Christmas Eve and few people were there, which made the experience more enjoyable. By the time Tink had moved from the front door to the living room and then the dining room, I knew that Elvis had a new and devoted fan.
“You’re right,” Tink admitted after we visited Elvis’ grave near the pool and meditation garden. “This is really a riveting look at history and one man’s life.”
He said that even before he toured the Lisa Marie, Elvis’ plane.
[Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “Let Me Tell You Something.” Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.]