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13 Aug 2004 10:41
Want to spend a few days holed up in Elvis Presley’s old digs—sleeping in his bedroom, eating in his kitchen? No, Graceland isn’t taking in boarders.
But there might be a room available at the public housing apartment where Presley spent his teenage years. The apartment’s new owners want to make it, in effect, a hotel suite like no other.
“Nowhere else in the world can you stay where Elvis lived,” said Alexandra Mobley, operations manager for Uptown Memphis, which now owns the old Lauderdale Courts housing project.
The complex is now called Uptown Square and has undergone a major renovation to create 347 apartments renting for $515 to $1 430 a month.
The work included restoration of the 689-square-foot apartment that was home to Presley and his parents, Vernon and Gladys, from 1949 to 1953.
It opened for the first time to public tours this week for the 27th anniversary of Presley’s death at Graceland on August 16, 1977.
Uptown Memphis plans to offer the apartment tours for a week each August and also in January on the anniversary of Presley’s birth in 1935.
But for the rest of the year, the apartment will be available for private, short-term rentals.
“It’s a one-of-a-kind-in-the-world thing, so I think people will pay what they think is appropriate to stay here,” Mobley said, declining to venture even an estimate.
Thousands of Presley fans pour into Memphis this time of the year for “Elvis Week,” which includes a string of parties, concerts, fan club meetings and memorials.
The annual pilgrimage reaches its climax on the night of the 15th with a candlelight procession past Presley’s grave in a small garden at Graceland.
This year, the two-bedroom Presley apartment, just blocks from downtown and the Beale Street entertainment district, offers the fans a new treat.
Jerry Domer of Bloomington, Illinois, said seeing the apartment and the bedroom window Presley liked to sit in to play his guitar was the highlight of his “Elvis Week.”
“This is where it started. They say he didn’t really get into the guitar until he moved here,” Domer said.
The apartment is decorated with period furniture arranged according to old photographs and the memories of family friends.
But while the appearance is vintage ‘50s, it now has central air and heat and a TV hidden in a living room cabinet.
“The beds have 1950s frames, but the mattresses are the exact same quality you would expect in a hotel these days,” Mobley said.
Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, in a nine-by-4,5-metre, two-room house his father built while employed as a farm worker. The family moved to Memphis in 1948 and initially took up residence at an $11-a-week rooming house.
Moving to Lauderdale Courts was a big step up. The complex was well-maintained and tenants were under strict rules to behave themselves and keep their apartments clean.
As was the custom for public housing at the time, city inspectors dropped in unannounced—and often.
The complex, built in 1938, is on the National Register of Historic Places as an example of public housing provided by the Works Progress Administration.
Closed in 2000, Lauderdale Courts faced demolition when Elvis fans and local preservationists began working to save it. Now it’s part of a public-private effort, managed by Uptown Memphis, to revitalise a once deteriorating, 100-block area near the downtown business district.
Todd Morgan, a spokesperson for Elvis Presley Enterprises, said the Graceland staff helped decorate the apartment, and Uptown Memphis has permission to use Presley’s name and image in marketing it.
“We’re one of their main cheerleaders,” Morgan said.
Copies of family photos decorate the apartment, and in Elvis’ bedroom, comic books from the 1950s and a high school yearbook are laid out on a bedside table. The few cabinets in the small kitchen are filled with dishes from the era.
Mobley said many of the decorations will remain when the apartment goes up for rent.
“We will have an inventory of everything in the apartment, and just like a regular hotel, if you take the towels, they go on your credit card,” she said. - Sapa-AP
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