Ten Facts That You Did Not Know About Elvis’ Home
1034 Audubon Driv
Ten facts you did,nt know about Audubon Drive
by Mike Freeman
Every Elvis fan who has read at least one book or fan magazine about him, knows that he lived at 1034 Audubon Drive in 1956, before he bought Graceland. Many of you know a few other details of Audubon Drive, and maybe have seen the house itself. I bet that you didn’t know these details about 1034 Audubon Drive. We did not either until we bought the home in 1998. On the eve of the 25th anniversary of Elvis’ death, I am sharing these little tidbits with you. Hope to see many of you at our house very soon.
1. The home was not built for Elvis, nor was it a brand new home. In fact it was built by Howard and Ruth Handwerker for their family. They completed the home either in late 1953 or early 1954. Howard was employed by a wood products company and had experience in home construction. He designed his home with special features; redwood wall paneling, pocket doors that slide into the walls, and red oak floors. But Howard lost his money, and the home was repossessed. The Presley family became the second owners of 1034 Audubon Drive.
2. They bought the home in March 1956, not May 11, 1956 as many people have written (including ourselves in Memphis Elvis Style). The transaction papers were signed on March 8 and 12, 1956. The Presley family; Elvis, Vernon, Gladys, and Minnie Mae, moved into the house the last week of the month.
3. It is also written that they paid $40,000 for the home. Actually they paid $29,100, still a lot of money in those days for a home. The erroneous information about the date and price of this transaction stems from a newspaper article printed on May 11, 1956.
4. Obviously, Elvis provided the money to buy the home. But he signed the documents to own the home with his mother and father, giving all three “title” to the home. In fact, the following year all three would sign similar documents to take possession of Graceland. These documents are further proof that Elvis shared his success with his family.
5. Part of the legend is that the neighbors did not like Elvis. Some of the neighbors were said to regard the Presleys as “white trash, hillbillies.” Or they viewed his performances as crude, or sinful. Apparently not everyone on Audubon Drive shared those views. A few of the surviving neighbors are careful to explain that they liked the family, but did not like the noise and confusion surrounding them.
6. No matter how the parents of Audubon Drive felt, the 60 or more children growing up on the street loved having the King of Rock and Roll live “next door”. For the young girls entering their sexual awaking, he must have quite a treat. The boys saw Elvis as the “leader of the pack.” Elvis was accommodating to them all; signing autographs, giving motorcycle rides, playing football with the boys.
7. The Presley family tried to be good neighbors. Those who met them particularly remember Gladys feeding cookies to the nearby children, or showing off her vegetable garden by the swimming pool. Vernon was not as friendly. They saw less of Elvis, but he was always polite to his elders. The year 1956 was the beginning of Elvis mania, when he was mobbed everywhere he traveled. The Audubon Drive home became an unofficial tourism attraction in the city, especially when Elvis was home. The Presleys understood that the unbridled enthusiasm for Elvis was a distraction, but were unable to solve the problem.
8. Many of the most famous pictures of Elvis were taken at 1034 Audubon Drive. Elvis allowed Alfred Wertheimer to follow him at close range for months that year. Alfred shot Elvis, young cousin Billy Smith, and Vernon sitting by the patio table. Elvis has cocked his head to one side to observe the photographer and is holding a Pepsi bottle. This photo has been reproduced thousands of times. An even more famous photo is of Elvis on his Harley-Davidson, casting his eyes downward. It is the most iconic photo of moody, restless youth of the 1950’s. Actually, Elvis was not striking a pose, but was disgusted that his motorcycle had no gas in the tank. He could not start it.
9. Eight families have owned 1034 Audubon between the years 1957 to 1998. After all these years, Elvis was the last homeowner to add a room to the house. Elvis converted the outdoor patio into a large den; with a glass wall to look out the pool, two wood and glass trophy cases, mahogany wood paneling, custom made star shaped light fixtures, and an acoustic tile ceiling. The room looks the same today. Although he was the homeowner for one year, he made far more changes to the house than everyone else after him.
10. Finally they knew that they had to move into a place with more privacy and security than was possible at 1034 Audubon Drive. It is well known that the Presleys bought Graceland from Ruth Brown Moore, a member of a wealthy Memphis family who built that estate home in 1939. Graceland was named after a relative of Mrs. Moore. But few knew that Mrs. Moore swapped homes with the Presleys. She took possession of 1034 Audubon Drive and rented it to another relative. Elvis paid $102,000 for Graceland, half of that in cash, and half in the assessed value of 1034 Audubon Drive.