One of the most visited homes in America is a Georgian Colonial-style mansion located in Memphis, Tennessee. Hundreds of thousands of people from all around the world come to pay homage to the mansion's last occupant, a singer and actor from nearby Tupelo, Mississippi named Elvis Aaron Presley. Presley's home and approximately 13 acres of land surrounding it comprise the tourist attraction known as Graceland. For many Presley fans, a trek to Graceland has become more of a religious pilgrimage than casual visit.
The Civil War-era publisher of a Memphis newspaper, a man named S.E. Toof, originally owned a 500 acre farm called Graceland in honor of his daughter, Grace Toof. Grace eventually inherited the property, but did not order the building of the elaborate mansion associated with Graceland today. Some of the original property was eventually sold off to developers, but Grace's niece Ruth and her physician husband Dr. Thomas Moore inherited a portion of the farmland. It was the Moores who ordered the construction of the Graceland mansion in 1937.
Twenty years later, a young entertainer looking for a more secluded location than his current home in East Memphis bought the Graceland property for approximately $100,000 (USD). Over time, Elvis Presley would move many of his family members into the mansion and add a significant amount of living space to the original building. A custom-made wrought iron gate decorated with two musical notes became the famous entrance to the Memphis estate still known as Graceland.
As Presley's fame and fortune grew, Graceland became more of a private refuge from the pressures of stardom. Although fans often camped out in front of the gates to catch a glimpse of their idol, Graceland did provide a sense of security for Elvis and his growing entourage of musicians, assistants, family members and a tight-knit group of friends informally known as the "Memphis Mafia". Elvis would frequently throw parties for cast members of his largely forgettable films, and eventually commissioned a recording studio for his basement.
Although Elvis Presley owned several other homes and apartments, Graceland remained his primary residence until the day he died in August of 1977. Several Presley family members continued to live in Graceland after his death, but his former wife Priscilla and their only daughter Lisa Marie eventually gained control over the Graceland estate and it was opened to the public in 1982. Elvis' fans could finally tour areas of the mansion such as the Jungle Room, complete with an indoor waterfall and tropical decor. Another room featured three television sets, while others reflected the tastes of Linda Thompson, one of Elvis Presley's last girlfriends.
Today, visitors to Graceland can visit a museum on the grounds which displays many of Elvis Presley's costumes, personal effects and musical awards. The second floor of the Graceland mansion, however, still remains strictly off-limits to the public and even most of the staff. Visitors who stand in the foyer of the first floor may not even realize they are standing directly beneath the bathroom where Elvis Presley died. The secrecy surrounding the second floor of Graceland has prompted more than a few conspiracy theories about Elvis' demise, but there are plenty of other exhibits to explore on the grounds of Graceland, including the memorial garden containing the final resting places of Elvis Presley and his parents.