The summer I graduated from college, I packed all my belongings and drove from Columbia, South Carolina, to Memphis, Tennessee, to the Heartbreak Hotel, on the way to begin the rest of my life.
It’s a real place, you know. Or at least it will be for a little longer. Built in 1985, the Elvis Presley Heartbreak Hotel (official name) will be torn down to make room for the new Guest House at Graceland. For some fans, like myself, it was a bittersweet moment when, during this week, Priscilla helped break ground on the new hotel, scheduled to open in 2015.
Today marks the 37th anniversary of The King’s passing and the near-end of Elvis Week, during which fans from around the globe make the pilgrimage to celebrate his life. Slated to open summer 2015, the Guest House will replace the Heartbreak Hotel.
Beloved by fans, the Heartbreak Hotel was showing its age a bit. As Priscilla said during the groundbreaking of its replacement, “In order for us to stay contemporary we have to enhance, we have to make things better, or we’ll be archaic. Elvis was never archaic. He was modern, he was contemporary, he loved edgy things; so we are going to keep that happening.”
A moment to acknowledge the charm of the Heartbreak, with its heart-shaped pool and special themed suites, like the “Burning Love” (think: a lot of red), and “The Gold & Platinum” (golden furniture!). Mind you, as a recent college grad those years ago, I stayed in a regular room, but couldn’t a girl dream of an upgrade?
As much as many fans like me celebrate the nostalgia of the Heartbreak Hotel, the Guest House at Graceland is a good thing. It is modern. It’s part of a $43 million improvement project for Elvis Presley Boulevard. It will bring new jobs and hopefully continued revitalization to the area.
The $70 million project will incorporate elements of Graceland, with more of a modern resort feel, designed by Memphis architecture firm Hnedak Bobo Group. The renderings show a property that combine a Vegas interior with Memphis style — think more along the lines of 2014 Cosmpolitan Hotel vs. early seventies International Hilton (where he performed).
“When the mansion became Elvis Presley’s Graceland home, it took on his personal, distinctive flavor in all aspects of design,” said Aron Ramage, AIA, lead interior architect/designer on the project. “We asked ourselves, ‘What would that style be today?’ Then based our interior concepts on those important cues.” Among features: a lobby ceiling inspired by Elvis’ capes, Jungle Room-esque prints, and a sports bar that puts a modern spin on Graceland’s brightly colored billiard room.
Also part of the property: a 500-seat theater for live performances and two restaurants. (Eager to see what will be on those menus.)
Yesterday a colleague asked me if I thought Elvis would endure, if the fandom would be passed to the Millenials and the generation after that. I’m almost certain of it. They’ll tour Graceland listening to John Stamos-narrated tours on iPads (also unveiled this summer). They will take selfies at the gates and post on Instagram. And they’ll do the things that will never change, like standing in Graceland’s Trophy room, surrounded by gold records and jumpsuits. They’ll think about the impact that a boy from Tennessee had and how he changed music as we know it.
Some things never go out of style.