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 “shes gone” “everything I loved is gone” “Why, why?” and Vernon “saying how sorry he was while consoling Elvis.
Elvis first 2 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!
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