Elvis Presley used to dream about building a guest house at his Graceland property, for friends who would visit the rock 'n' roll icon in Memphis.
Presley didn't get to see his dream come true, but his fans will. The Guest House at Graceland is a six-story, 450-room hotel, opening Oct. 27 just steps from Presley's former home. The exterior, with columns, arches and a portico, evokes the feel of a comfortable Southern Colonial home, but the interior design and amenities are modern.
Presley died on Aug. 16, 1977, and Graceland was eventually turned into a museum. Priscilla Presley, the singer's former wife and a caretaker of his legacy, said Elvis had made plans to build a guest house at Graceland as far back as 1960. But it was never built, so when people visited Graceland, they would stay at a Howard Johnson's down the street.
"This luxury hotel is the most significant enhancement to Graceland since we opened in 1982," Priscilla Presley said Monday. "This is huge ... I feel that it's just so right for fans, and our guests, and tourists."
The hotel is the first of its kind in the working- and middle-class Memphis neighborhood of Whitehaven. Droves of applicants flocked to a job fair Saturday, and the hotel will employ about 450 people. When the hotel opens, room prices will range from $149 for basic rooms to $1,300 for the highest-priced suite.
The location lets Elvis fans stay within walking distance of Graceland and the tourist attractions across the street, but it will likely attract other visitors as well. It will offer the most upscale accommodations in the immediate area, which has a Days Inn and a couple of other budget hotels. Also nearby, the aging Heartbreak Hotel is scheduled for demolition.
The Guest House at Graceland also promises to become one of the city's top lodging options, along with the Peabody and the Madison several miles away in the downtown area.
"If you ever thought that you wanted to hang out with Elvis and feel like one of his guests, this is your opportunity," said Joel Weinshanker, managing partner of Elvis Presley Enterprises, which manages the Graceland tours and also produces and licenses Elvis-themed live events worldwide.
Weinshanker said the total investment in the hotel is about $92 million. Memphis officials approved a tax break for the hotel project.
The hotel is still under construction, with bulldozers outside and workers installing electric outlets and carpets. But colors associated with The King already are present, such as touches of purple and gold in the carpeting and hallways, gold lighting in the 464-seat theater, and a picture of Elvis in a gold jacket hanging on the textured gray walls of guest rooms. At 386,000 square feet, it's about 22 times the size of the Graceland house.
"There's not a whole lot of Elvis bling," said Elvis Presley Enterprises CEO Jack Soden. "It's much more subtle. It's very cool."
The circular lobby is illuminated by natural light streaming through large windows. The lobby ceiling features mirrors shaped like elongated hexagons. The gray and purple carpet is decorated with a geometric pattern.
Turn right and you get The Lobby Lounge, an eating and drinking spot with indoor and outdoor seating. Nearby is E.P.'s Bar and Grill, a sports bar-themed restaurant with televisions and a pool table.
A left turn from the lobby leads to another restaurant, Delta's Kitchen, which will feature locally sourced products and a breakfast buffet. There's also a coffee bar, and room service will be available.
Beyond Delta's Kitchen is a large ballroom and four meeting rooms. The theater venue can be used for musical performances and company conferences.
The rooms feature textured vinyl wall coverings, a glass-encased shower with a wall-mounted body spray, and sleekly designed chairs next to a window with a blackout curtain. Rooms also have a Keurig coffee brewing system and a flat screen TV.
Priscilla Presley said suites will have unique themes. The King's Suite will be designed like Elvis Presley's master bedroom, with rich red and black tones and a custom-draped canopy bed.
The property will also include a swimming pool, adding to the resort feel.
"It really is quite beautiful, and it is subtle, and it is contemporary, and it's classy," Priscilla Presley said. "I think our guests will be very happy."