There are no jungle rooms at 1034 Audubon Drive, no gold records and no pink Cadillacs. But this modest ranch-style house in the Audubon Park Subdivision of southeast Memphis shares a history with Graceland, the famous white-columned mansion more than 10 miles away. The house Elvis Presley purchased at age 21, a home that his fame quickly outgrew, has been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. The State Review Board approved the nomination Tuesday and now it moves on — just as Graceland did in 1991 — for approval at the national level.
Judith Johnson, an architecture historian in Memphis, helped the private owners put the house up for nomination. No stranger to Elvis history, Johnson was involved in protecting from demolition a Memphis public housing unit, Lauderdale Courts, where Elvis spent his teenage years. Now she’s hoping to put another Elvis homestead on the map.
Bought with his first royalty checks from RCA Studio on March 8, 1956, Elvis, his parents and grandmother lived in the four-bedroom house for only a year.One month after moving in, his single "Heartbreak Hotel" hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts, ultimately ending any privacy he had in the neighborhood.
Crowds of fans lined the suburban street and police frequently had to be called in to handle the growing problem. This massive, and often emotional, response by fans to Elvis and his music would come to characterize the rest of his life and career.
While Graceland is synonymous with the rock ’n’ roll legend, Johnson said, the little Audubon Drive house represents another period of Elvis’ life.
"The house represents the transition from being an unknown singer to a superstar," said Mike Freeman, one of the current owners. "Things changed forever for him in that house."
A Life magazine article from August 1956 had pictures of teenage girls sitting with their ears pressed to his bedroom wall and picking through the grass in his yard for souvenirs. "He really made his most significant impact on our culture while he lived in this home," Johnson said.
Freeman said that what made Elvis different from other musicians and celebrities was his affection for his fans, no matter how large the crowds. "He would never call the police," Freeman said. "He’d go out there and sign autographs."
In the short time the family was there, Elvis had a 50-footlong granite pool installed in the backyard and a den added to the house, according to records. The pool was the largest residential pool in Memphis when he built it.
Many of Alfred Wertheimer’s photographs of the emerging musician were shot at this house, chronicling Elvis’ growing fame and fortune. These photographs helped the owners recreate the interior decoration as close as possible with period furniture from the 1950s. In March 1957, Elvis swapped the house on Audubon Drive for a 14-acre estate with a two-story colonial already known as Graceland, a home that Elvis would make famous.
Source: Various / Updated: Sep 25, 2005