The Moores & The Presleys at Graceland
In March of 1957 Elvis' parents Vernon and Gladys Presley were looking for a larger and more private home than the one they and Elvis were living in on Audubon Drive. They found Graceland on what was then the outskirts of south Memphis. When Elvis returned from filming "Loving You", he went to see Graceland and also fell in love with it.
They put down a $1,000 deposit on March 19, 1957 and finalized the purchase on March 25th, paying a total of $102,500 for 13.8 acres of land and the 10,000 square foot home. Renovations soon began, including the building of the stone wall around the property and the installation of the musical-themed iron gates. (With Elvis' additions the house has 17,552 square feet of living space under the roof today. This does not include any outbuildings such as Vernon's office or the racquetball building.) Vernon and Gladys, along with Elvis' grandmother Minnie Mae Presley, moved in on May 16, 1957 while Elvis was still in Hollywood filming "Jailhouse Rock".
Elvis purchased the home from Mrs. Ruth Brown Moore. Her grandfather was S.C. Toof, a Memphis businessman and founder of a printing firm established in Memphis in 1864. S.C.'s daughter, Grace Toof Ward, originally purchased 323 acres in Whitehaven in 1894. Grace's mother Mary B. Toof purchased an additional 157 adjoining acres in 1901. This 480 acres of land remained in the family and was undeveloped. It was used for parties and outings. It ran from what then was Hernando Road (today's Elvis Presley Boulevard) east to Millbranch and from Raines Road north to the then S.N. Ford land, which started at about what today is called Winchester Road. In 1939, Ruth Toof Brown, sister to Grace, and her husband Battle Manassas Brown were the owners of the land. (At this writing we do not know what happened to Grace and why she had no heirs.) They divided it up between their three children, Ruth Brown Moore, Stephan Toof Brown and Richard Bates Brown. Richard and his wife sold their 1/3 to Stephen, while Ruth retained her 1/3 which amounted to 158.45 acres in the northernmost section of this land. Ruth Brown Moore and her husband Dr. Thomas D. Moore built Graceland Mansion and named it and the cattle farm they have as Graceland Farms in honor of her Aunt Grace. The architects were Max Furbringer and Merrill Ehrman. The builder was Robert Crouch.
Ruth Brown Moore was a Memphis socialite. She attended Wellesley and Smith College in Massachusetts and traveled abroad. She was a member of historical and antiquities organizations, the Symphony League, book clubs and garden clubs. Dr. Thomas D. Moore was a professor of urology at UT College of Medicine and president of staff at Baptist Memorial Hospital in 1949, as well as head of the urology department at John Gaston Hospital. He was also the first president of the Mid-South Hereford Breeder Association which was organized in 1940. Dr. and Mrs. Moore were married in 1925 and divorced in 1952. They had a daughter, Ruth Moore Cobb, who was a harpist with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. Mrs. Cobb was about twelve years old when her parents started building Graceland. What is now the living room was her music room and her harp was a prominent feature of that room. What Elvis called the music room was then a sun porch utilizing the french doors on both sides. In the basement, what Elvis turned into the pool room was Mrs. Cobb's library where she studied her school work.
After Dr. and Mrs. Moore divorced, Mrs. Moore allowed a local church group to use her property for gatherings until they could build a church on the adjoining land. (The congregation eventually left that building, which was purchased by Graceland/EPE in the late 1980s and now serves as the company's main corporate offices.) The home had been vacant when Elvis first saw it and he had no problem with the church being next door, which Mrs. Cobb recalled was one of the reasons her mother chose Elvis as the buyer over other offers she had received.
Today the gracious Greek revival house on the hill surrounded by tall stately trees is on an oasis of land along a very busy Memphis street. Graceland and it famous music gates are widely recognized around the world. Graceland was placed on the American National Register of Historic Places in 1991