Graceland was built in 1939 by the Toof family and sat on five-hundred-acres of land. Ruth Brown Moore and her husband Thomas Moore built this house naming it after Ruth's aunt Grace Toof. After being in the family for generations, Elvis Presley purchased the home for over $100,000 in 1957 when he was twenty-two. After moving in, along with his parents and grandmother, he made many changes to the mansion and made it his own. Elvis’ life was lost too soon, but the mansion preserves his memory. Elvis' ex wife Priscilla Presley opened the mansion to the public in 1982 to cover the cost of the taxes and maintenance. Graceland became the second most toured home in the United States, the first being the White House. Still to this day, Graceland is open to the public allowing Elvis’ legacy to live on and never letting the world forget ‘The King.’
Backstory and Context
Elvis Presley purchased the Graceland Mansion for $102,500 in 1957 when he was twenty-two years old. Before Elvis purchased the mansion, it was owned by the Toof family and had been in their family for generations. In 1939, Ruth Brown Moore and her husband Thomas Moore built the mansion on a five-hundred-acre farm naming it after Ruth’s aunt Grace Toof. Their daughter, Ruth Marie, became a harpist for the Memphis Symphony leading to many occasions where classical recitals were performed in the mansion. The recitals continued once Elvis bought the mansion, just with a different type of music.
When Elvis first purchased the mansion, he had concluded his first year of major success including television appearances, live performances, and many gold record awards. He had always promised his parents when he was older, he would make a lot of money and buy them a nice house and his dream came true in buying Graceland. Elvis, his mom, dad and grandmother moved into Graceland in April of 1957.
Elvis made many changes to the mansion including the music gate. Abe Saucer designed the gate for Elvis, and they were custom built by John Dillars Jr. Shortly after Elvis moved in, on April 22, 1957 the music gate was installed. Elvis also added buildings and other structures to the property as well. The Mediation Garden was built between 1964-1965. Elvis built the garden as a place of reflection. The Garden includes a pool with several jets and a brick wall with four arches including stained glass panels. Elvis wanted this area for a private retreat in order to be able to reflect and have peace. The road name was also changed due to the vote by the city council of Memphis, Tennessee. Changing from Highway 51 South to Elvis Presley BLVD, the mayor had an official ceremony honoring the new name on June 29, 1971.
Elvis lived at the mansion for twenty years until meeting his untimely death on August 16, 1977. Elvis died in the mansion at the young age of forty-two. This, in turn, lead to Vernon Presley, Elvis’ father, being the trustee of the home. After Vernon’s death, Elvis’ former wife Priscilla opened the mansion to the public due to the half a million dollars it was costing in taxes as well as maintenance. The house opened to the public on June 7, 1982. Turning the mansion into a tourist attraction was the right move to make considering it made the money back it took to restore the house within the first month it was open.
Since the tourist attraction opened in 1982, it has hosted more than twenty million visitors from every state as well as almost every country in the world. This has increased the tourism in Memphis housing over 700,000 visitors annually. Graceland is the second most viewed house in the United States. Graceland encompasses the life of Elvis Presley and allows his legacy to live on through the exhibit of his life and what it consisted of.
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