Monday, May 10, 2010

Graceland and Back North

Onwards to Graceland! As you already know, this is the 13.8 acre estate that was once home to Elvis Presley in Memphis, Tennessee. Elvis purchased Graceland in 1957 for approximately $100,000 and moved into home with his father and mother, Vernon and Gladys Presley. His fiance, Priscilla Beaulieu, lived at Graceland for five years before she and Elvis married in 1967. She then continued to live in Graceland five more years until she separated from Elvis in late 1972.

Graceland was Lisa Marie Presley's first official home, and residence after her birth in 1968. When her parents divorced, she primarily lived with her mother in California, but spent time at the estate with her father. Every year at Christmas, Lisa and her family go to Graceland to celebrate the holidays. On August 16, 1977, Elvis died in his bathroom at Graceland allegedly of a heart attack, which was probably instigated by drug use.

Today, the home is a museum, which opened to the public in 1982. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1991 and declared a National Historic Landmark in 2006. Only one other private home in the United States is visited more often - the White House. Graceland receives over 600,000 visitors per year.

The tour includes the main floor and basement of the home, with peeks at the Living Room and adjoining Music Room, Elvis' parents room, dining room, kitchen, and a large den called the Jungle Room. the basement features a media room and bar and billards room. To the rear of the house is a room which contains a large office, a horse stable and pasture, and a raquet ball court which now houses many of Elvis sequined stage costumes and other memorabelia.

To the side of the home are the swimming pool and the Meditation Garden where Elvis, his mother Gladys, his father Vernon and grandmother Minnie Mae Hood Presley lie buried. A separate building across the street houses a car collection and not far away, are his two airplanes.

Beyond Graceland, our plan was to travel east to see more of Tennesse; however, due to the flooding, we were forced to divert westward through Arkansas. Here, we also see some signs of flooding, but not nearly to the degree that Tennessee suffered. Before we know it, we're back in Missouri very briefly, before heading east again through the northwest corner of Tennessee and into Kentucky for a very brief spell.

Our first stop is at the site of old Fort Jefferson, near Wickliffe, Kentucky. Here, once stood a Revolutionary War stronghold at the intersection of confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. It was built in 1780 by George Rogers Clark to protect the area from British led Indian attacks. In 1781, The Chickasaw, led by a Scothman named Colbert, besieged the fort for five days, killing many settlers. When reinforcements arrived with supplies the Indians withdrew, but the fort was afterwards abandoned. Later the site was used by Lewis and Clark on their Corps of Discovery Expedition, and used again during the Civil War for a Union Supply Base. Though there is nothing left of the old fort today, historic markers tell its history, as a huge cross looms over them. The 90 foot Fort Jefferson Memorial Cross, financed by donations from individuals in Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, Missouri and many other states serves as a beacon for the hundreds of ships that supply the two rivers.

We then head through the town of Wickliffe and on to Wickliffe Mounds Historic Site, where an ancient city of Native Americans lived in about 1000-1300 A.D. Unfortunately, it is closed on the day we arrive. (Budget cuts, perhaps?)

We're then jogging back across the Mississippi River to the site of old Fort Defiance and the city of Cairo, Illinois -- one of the saddest and most interesting towns I've ever visited. More on that in the next post.

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