- The Washington Times - Monday, March 27, 2006

The federal government now confirms what the world has known for nearly 30 years — Elvis Presley’s iconic Graceland mansion is a national historic landmark.

The historic designation was announced yesterday at the 14-acre estate in Memphis, Tenn., by Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton, who was joined by the rock legend’s former wife, Priscilla Presley, and Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of “the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

“In recognition of Elvis Presley’s achievements and contributions to American culture and musical history, today we designate his home Graceland as a national historic landmark,” Mrs. Norton said.

Millions of fans worldwide have made pilgrimages to Graceland since it was opened to the public in 1982 as a museum.

According to the Interior Department, Graceland is one of the most recognizable residences in the nation, second only to the White House.

“It didn’t take Americans and the rest of the world long to discover Elvis Presley, and it is abundantly clear that they will never forget him,” Mrs. Norton said. “His popularity continues to thrive nearly 29 years after his passing, with each new generation connecting with him in a significant way.”

There are fewer than 2,500 national historic landmark designations on the Interior Department’s list, which are designated by the Cabinet secretary after reviews by the National Park Service. The sites represent ideas that have shaped the U.S. and are located at actual sites of significant historical events, or where prominent Americans worked or lived.

“Elvis loved Graceland and was so proud of it,” Mrs. Presley said. “This home was his private corner of the world that he shared with his family and his closest friends. To him, having Graceland also was a tangible symbol of how far he had come from his very humble beginnings.”

Lisa Marie Presley grew up in Graceland and says the home “holds so many great memories of the time I shared there with my father, our family and our friends.”

“This landmark designation comes purely due to the fact that the legendary Elvis Presley called Graceland home. It’s a significant statement about how much my father has meant to the world, and it only makes me prouder of him,” she said.

According to its Web site, the Graceland experience includes self-guided audio tours that narrate Elvis’ life and career with exhibits of his personal mementos and clothing.

Last year, the Associated Press reported that Lisa Marie had sold the business side of her father’s estate — including Graceland — to CKX Inc., an entertainment company that also owns the TV show “American Idol.”

Elvis used the proceeds from his first hit record “Heartbreak Hotel” to buy Graceland for just over $100,000 in 1957.

There is also the Elvis Automobile Museum, where his 1955 pink Cadillac is on display along with the red MG he drove in the film “Blue Hawaii.” Visitors also can board Elvis’ customized jet, the Lisa Marie.

While visiting Graceland, tourists can book a room at the nearby “Heartbreak Hotel,” which features 128 rooms and four theme suites; the Graceland suite, inspired by his home, the Hollywood suite featuring an art deco style, the gold and platinum suite decorated in a retro 1950s and ‘60s style, and the “Burning Love” suite with a romantic decor.

According to the National Park Service, the national historical landmark status may confer benefits on properties in terms of qualifying for both public and private preservation funding, as well as in preventing “incompatible development” of nearby properties.

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