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Priscilla Presley Opens the Guesthouse at Graceland: ‘Elvis Wouldn’t Have Wanted a Hotel Full of His Picture’

Updated

Elvis Presley Enterprises

The king is back, in spirit anyway.

The Guesthouse at Graceland, a new 450-room hotel near Elvis’s famous Tennessee estate welcomes visitors starting Sunday. PEOPLE spoke with Priscilla Presley about the new property, which she oversaw and helped design.

“We never had a guesthouse [at Graceland],” Priscilla recalls of her former home. “Elvis didn’t really have any rooms for anyone to stay. The closest hotel was a Howard Johnson and, whenever we had friends over, that’s where they would stay.”

Until this week, visitors to the historic home, which opened to the public in 1982, could expect similar accommodations to those Elvis himself offered, at the Heartbreak Hotel, a quirky property with a heart-shaped swimming pool and a divisive Yelp page. “It was the prototype for Holiday Inn,” Priscilla reveals. “That property was for sale and it’s adjacent to ours, so we bought it. There was always the intention to have a better hotel.”

Elvis Presley Enterprises
Elvis Presley Enterprises
Elvis Presley Enterprises
Elvis Presley Enterprises

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Now, those making a pilgrimage to Graceland will be greeted by modern rooms, five dining options, a theatre for events and 20 suites that tastefully pay tribute to the music legend’s life and career. “Each suite has a feel of Elvis. We didn’t want it so Elvis-themed and Elvis everywhere, because you can see that at Graceland,” Priscilla explains. “He wouldn’t have wanted a hotel full of his picture.”

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Priscilla had a hand in designing the top-tier suites at the Guesthouse, known collectively as “The Upstairs.” Her favorites include the King Suite, which is inspired by Elvis’s own master bedroom down to the TV mounted in the ceiling, and one that pays tribute to the suite at the Vegas hotel, then a Hilton, where he stayed when performing in the city. “That one has a royal blue and purple color palette . . . a little bit of a vintage touch,” she explains. Others pay tribute to the singer’s parents and his motto, “Taking Care of Business.”

Elvis Presley Enterprises
Elvis Presley Enterprises
Jeffrey Jacobs/
Jeffrey Jacobs

Just two months ago, when the hotel was already mostly complete, an archivist shared with Priscilla a photograph from 1960 he’d found of Elvis and his father, Vernon, standing in front of a model for a guesthouse at the home. This weekend’s opening, she feels, still pays tribute to her ex-husband’s vision. Speaking to the more subtle design choices at the Guesthouse hotel, Priscilla says with a laugh, if he were here today “he would not live in the Jungle Room.” (The eccentric den at Graceland featured an indoor waterfall and green shag carpet. Priscilla has since dubbed it “the first man cave.”)

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Instead, she says his style was, “more modern and contemporary. He seemed to gravitate toward rooms that were very plush and colorful. He had an aesthetic eye, lets just put it that way.”