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.
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,m 1977.