We haven’t visited a 101 place in a while, so it seemed fitting to jump into the new year with a stop off at one of the most famous of the 101 Places in Mississippi to See Before You Die–the birthplace of Elvis Presley in Tupelo.
The vernacular, 2-room shotgun was constructed in 1934 by Elvis’ father, Vernon, for around $180. It would only be home to Elvis until he was 3, when it was repossessed.
The Presley home took 11% of the Hills/Northeast regional poll, so that was 153 folks with a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on who voted for it. It was enough. The little white building that was once in a row of shotguns made the final cut to be on the 101 (okay, Malvaney, 106) places deemed worthy of acknowledgement in Mississippi. It probably looks a heap better now than it did in 1935 when Elvis was born in the front room.
Start your new year off with a road trip, and be sure to stop in at Elvis’ birthplace on Elvis Presley Boulevard in Tupelo. Once you are done there, hop on over to the Circle G in Horn Lake, or even get wild and cross the state line to Memphis and check out Lauderdale Courts, where a young Elvis entertained the neighbors who moved into the nation’s first foray into public housing, a complex that was only saved from the wrecking ball because Elvis slept there.
Categories: 101 MissPres Places, Historic Preservation, MS Dept. of Archives and History, Tupelo, Vernacular Architecture
“The little white building . . . was once in a row of shotguns” Although we tend to think of shotguns as appearing in rows of identical units, this may not be the case with this particular shotgun. Years ago I had to look into the building in regard to a possible MHL designation. If memory of that investigation serves, a Sanborn map of the area shows the shotgun in isolation. Of course this is really what one would expect. Rows of identical shotguns are indicative of a common origin–of being mass-produced, so to speak. However the birthplace wasn’t one in a series of identical units; it was built as a solitary unit by Vernon Presley.
I was amused to find out the origin of the ceiling in the house, which is, at least in part, made of rough-cut lumber while all the other interior is made of beaded, 1×4 tongue-in-groove. I was informed that at some point in the house’s history the roof leaked for some time allowing the ceiling to deteriorate. When the ceiling was replaced, instead of using the same material that it had been constructed with, it was replaced with unplaned boards. The intent was seemingly clear–to emphasize Elvis’ humble origins. As if the house as built wasn’t humble enough, they were going to make it even more humble.
Do we know that Vernon Presley built the house, or did he pay to have it built?
I don’t recall; I found a couple of sources regarding the building, and my impression is that Presley built it, but I may be misremembering. There was one article that showed where the house was located along with others, and other references to the area just being isolated dairy farming. It was identified as tenant farming. As soon as I get a round tuit, I will see if I can find that again.
During my visit — so many years ago — I intended to assess the overall veracity of the story behind the house and its architectural integrity. I recall in particular two documents (I believe there were two) being signed statements (one by Vester Presley, I believe) to the effect that Elvis had in fact been born in the house. The documents were more than mere statements to that effect and each gave the person’s recollection of the origin of the house. If I remember correctly both made it clear that Vernon had constructed it himself.
The statements were on display inside a large glass case in the museum. Because of time contraints and the difficulty of getting to the documents, I wasn’t able to acquire copies. I could kick myself for that. They are of considerable importance for documenting the origin of the structure.
I know that Elvis was born in Tupelo, Mississippi.
A friend states that he lived in Cleveland, Missisisppi, for a number of years as a teen ager. That she attended School with him, she mentioned 6th grade. this would have been about 1950 plus – minus. Can any one confirm or deny. Pretty good story. If some one confirms will post information.
Vicksburg Evening Post Today,Monday, October 26th, 2015 States;
A State Fact; Elvis Presley’s boyhood home in Tupelo was 450 square feet.
Graceland was 17,550 Square Feet.