Through a brilliant gamble by Priscilla Presley, Elvis’ Graceland home was able to stay in the family, becoming one of the most successful tourist attractions on Earth in the process.
“On June 7, 1982, Graceland was opened to the public for tours!” cites the Elvis Presley Estate on Twitter Monday. It’s been 39 years to the day since the public first set foot inside Graceland – and the story of how this became a possibility is as remarkable as the historic landmark itself. And where else to begin than with the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll himself.
At the young age of 22, a still-budding Elvis Presley bought his Memphis estate in 1957. The mansion and grounds that would become Graceland set the icon back $102,500. This sounds miniscule, but is the equivalent of around $1 million today when adjusting for inflation. Even then, Elvis got quite a deal on his rural home.
Found at 3764 Elvis Presley Boulevard in the Whitehaven community, Graceland’s grounds cover 13.8 acres. Presley would dedicate hundreds of thousands of dollars during his lifetime to making it feel like home, with all of his renovations and creative choices intact to this day.
Upon his untimely death in 1977, Elvis would leave the estate to his only child, Lisa Marie Presley. He did so under the guidance of his father, Vernon, as executor. As Vernon died just two years later, however, he appointed Priscilla Presley as the sole executor. She would guide then 11-year-old Lisa Marie through ownership until she was of legal age. And it is Priscilla herself we have to thank for not only the survival of Graceland, but its doors opening to the public, too.
After Elvis Presley: The Legacy of Graceland
Nothing we know of Graceland today would be possible without the family Presley left behind. According to Elvis Presley Enterprises, the estate itself cost $500,000 yearly in upkeep alone at the time of Elvis’ death. With his own fortune dwindling in the years before, Priscilla and Lisa Marie faced losing the state to such enormous upkeep. Taxes were also due, and would’ve crippled the family into selling the family home.
It must’ve felt an odd choice to some for Graceland to go to Priscilla, as she and Elvis had divorced in 1973. Yet if Vernon Presley had not handed her the reigns, much of what was and is Elvis Presley may have disappeared into history.
To combat this, Priscilla sought out other famous homes, estates, and museums. In a stroke of brilliance, she brought on Jack Soden to serve as CEO. Together, they would turn Graceland into a memorial property that would make money instead of bleeding it.
It was an enormous gamble at the time, but one that would pay off million-fold. On June 7, 1982, the beloved home of Elvis Presley would open to the public. Memphis, Tennessee would never be the same.
In just one month after going public, Graceland made back every penny of the investment it took to make it possible. Priscilla would serve as chairwoman and president of Elvis Presley Enterprises, handing the reins over to Lisa Marie when she turned 21-years-old.
From Museum to Historic Place to National Historic Landmark
In the time since, Graceland and EPE’s fortune has soared, securing the financial future of the Elvis Presley family in perpetuity.
Priscilla and Lisa Marie’s incredible work with their former home has led to it becoming the third most-visited house in the United States – only behind the Biltmore Estate and the White House itself. Still, it boasts the most visits for a private home in all of America.
As a result of this and the legacy of Elvis Presley himself, Graceland became a part of the National Register of Historic Places on November 7, 1991. It was the first rock ‘n’ roll associated site to be granted such status. Then, on March 27, 2006, Graceland became a National Historic Landmark – another first in kind.
What a legacy. One that only Elvis Presley and his surviving kin could create. Happy Opening Day to Graceland from all of us here at Outsider.com!