Did you think the Graceland mansion was named for one of Elvis’s favorite hymns, “Amazing Grace?” And did you think Elvis was the one who named it? Wrong on both counts.
The original owner of the property on which the mansion now stands was a prominent Memphis businessman, S.C. Toof who, like many well-to-do businessmen, invested in land. At that time the area some 9 miles north of Memphis was mostly rural, but Toof no doubt saw its potential as Memphis began to expand. He named the property “Graceland Farm” after his daughter, Grace.
Grace Toof inherited the farm when her father died and deeded part of it to her nephew and niece. In 1939, Grace’s niece, Ruth Moore, and Ruth’s husband, Dr. Thomas Moore, built their Southern Colonial style home on the site now known as Graceland. The Moore’s house was built of tan limestone and boasted 23 rooms.
Despite the mansions 8 bedrooms, the only child ever to occupy the house before Elvis bought it in 1952 was the Moore’s daughter, Ruth Moore Cobb. She was 12 when the house was completed and spent her teen years there.
Graceland had a musical tradition even before Elvis arrived there. Ruth Moore Cobb was a music lover from an early age and studied piano and harp in the mansion’s living room. Later in life she became a harpist with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra.
By the 1950s, the mansion was no longer in use as a home. At one point it had been sold to the YMCA for $35,000 and the Graceland Christian Church used some of the rooms for prayer services.
In 1957, Elvis, seeking a retreat from ever-increasing public attention, bought the mansion and its 12.8 acres for a little over $100,000. He did extensive renovation and enlarged the size of the original building from the original 10,000 feet to over 17,000 feet. At the time of his death, Graceland was estimated to be worth over $350,000.
Among the several definitions the dictionary offers for the word “grace,” one seems to fit Graceland very aptly: Seemingly effortless beauty or charm of form or proportion. That the mansion continues to attract some 600,000 visitors each year would seem to verify that description.