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Graceland to celebrate 40 years; here’s a timeline of events

by Susan and Simon Veness

Graceland Mansion, former Memphis, Tenn. home of music icon Elvis Presley, is celebrating its 40th anniversary of being open to the public, with live guided tours and special anniversary posters.

graceland
Photos courtesy of Graceland

Elvis Presley, dubbed the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” passed away in August, 1977, and on June 7, 1982, his Aunt Delta and Graceland CEO Jack Soden cut the blue ribbon and officially welcomed 3,034 guests to tour the mansion, for the admission price of $5.

Since then, more than 22 million visitors from around the world have taken a tour of Graceland, the “ultimate rock ‘n’ roll pilgrimage for music fans everywhere.” Virtual tours were offered in 2021, due to the pandemic.

The mansion has remained just as it was when Elvis lived there.

To celebrate the milestone anniversary, the first 1,000 guests will receive a 40th anniversary poster which features the artwork used on Graceland’s opening day flyer.

A new Archives Experience in Elvis Presley’s Memphis exhibit – called “Graceland, Welcome To My World” – will also be on display, taking visitors on a journey through Elvis’s home via photos, personal artifacts, and Graceland archival footage.

New video interviews with Elvis’s ex-wife Priscilla Presley and then-investment counselor, now Graceland President and CEO, Jack Soden, will be shared, giving insights into the decision to open Graceland to the public and the tours’ early days, which helped to ease the financial burden of the mansion’s upkeep.

graceland living room
Graceland living room

Graceland Mansion highlights from the past 40 years

  • June 7, 1982 – Live guided tours begin at Graceland
  • February 22, 1984 – Elvis’ jet, the Lisa Marie, which was named for his daughter, arrives in Memphis and is brought down Elvis Presley Boulevard to its present location.
  • June 12, 1989 – The first new construction on the Graceland campus, the Elvis Presley Automobile Museum, opens at Graceland. Vernon’s Office, where Elvis’s father worked, also opens as part of the tour.
  • 1990 – The National Ornamental Metal Museum in Memphis restores Graceland’s famous front gates, and Elvis’ 1956 purple Cadillac goes on display.
  • November 7, 1991 – Elvis Presley’s Graceland is placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • 1994 – Live tour guides are discontinued as Graceland makes the switch to audio tours. The kitchen is added to the tour.
  • May 11, 1997 – On Mother’s Day, Gladys and Vernon’s bedroom is added to the Graceland Mansion tour, honoring Elvis’s parents.
  • Spring 1999 – Heartbreak Hotel guest house opens, offering fans an Elvis-themed place to stay during their visit.
  • March 26, 2006 – Graceland is named a National Historic Landmark.
  • June 30, 2006 – President George W. Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visit Graceland, marking the first time a sitting president visited the mansion.

  • 2007 – The 30th anniversary of Elvis’ passing was remembered at the Elvis Week Candlelight Vigil, where more than 75,000 fans paid their respects to Elvis. The Vigil lasted until 8:30 a.m. the next day.
  • October 27, 2016 – Fulfilling a dream of Elvis’ to build a state-of-the-art guest house for visitors, the AAA Four Diamond resort, The Guest House at Graceland, opens.
  • March 2, 2017 – Graceland’s new exhibit and entertainment complex, Elvis Presley’s Memphis, opens, complete with new restaurants, shops, a soundstage, and exhibits. Notable exhibits include a new car museum, Presley Motors, and the world’s largest Elvis museum, Elvis: The Entertainer Career Museum.

On June 7, 2022, fans can join the 40th anniversary celebration by sharing their own photos on social media using #Graceland40.

For more information visit Graceland.com.

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