Last Updated on May 17, 2023
Grab your shades and turn the volume up for a rock ‘n’ roll road trip to the Elvis Presley Birthplace, Museum and Chapel in Tupelo, Mississippi – the Elvis Presley Tupelo house!
Consider a time when a shy, skinny kid in denim overalls roamed Tupelo’s streets and backroads. Discover the King of Rock n’ Roll’s life before he became famous. Walk in the footsteps of rock ‘n’ roll royalty.
Tupelo is just over 100 miles from international airports in Memphis or Huntsville, AL, and around 200 miles from Jackson, MS or Nashville. During our recent road trip through north Mississippi, my husband and I spent a day at the Elvis Presley Tupelo house historic site which includes much more than a house.
For me, it was a return.
In the summer of 1975, Elvis performed an aid concert for Mississippi tornado victims. Thousands of fans descended upon Jackson to support the relief efforts. I was thirteen years old, and certainly, my parents would not consider a request to see the gyrating Elvis in concert. But I saw the house where Elvis was born once before in July 1975.
The Elvis Birthplace, Museum, and Chapel
In 1934, Vernon Presley borrowed $180 from his employer to build a practical shotgun-style home for his wife, Gladys. A few months later, they were parents, but their first-born son Jessie Garon Presley was stillborn. Elvis Aaron Presley grew up an only child in a low-income family without the brother who had shared his mother’s womb.
When Elvis was only 3-years-old, he and his mother were evicted from his birthplace home. Vernon was in prison for a check forgery conviction. Visitors should know that the two-room shotgun Elvis Presley house Tupelo you visit today, his birthplace home, was one of several homes where Elvis lived during his 13 years in the city.
There are both free and ticketed activities at the Elvis Presley Birthplace, Museum, and Chapel. The main building houses the ticket counter, the museum, a movie theater, the event space, restrooms, and the gift shop. The Birthplace Home, the Assembly of God church, and the Elvis Presley Memorial Chapel are separate buildings.
Outdoor attractions include the “Elvis at 13” statue, the Fountain of Life, the “Reflections” water features, the Bridge Over Troubled Water, the amphitheater, the “Becoming” statue, and several pavilions. While there are many points of interest, and only a few are covered here, navigating through the beautiful park-like setting is easy.
Elvis Presley Home in Tupelo
As background, a typical shotgun house is about 12-feet wide and three or four rooms deep. The front door connects directly into the living room, then to one or two bedrooms, and to the kitchen near the back door. There are no hallways, and the open doors between each room align to route a breeze through the entire house.
These compact houses often featured spacious gabled front porches where neighbors would socialize.
By comparison, the Elvis Presley Tupelo house birthplace home is smaller than the typical shotgun house, with only two rooms – a bedroom and a kitchen – each room about 12-foot square.
Two rooms. That’s all.
We opened the wooden screened door on the front porch and stepped immediately into the bedroom where Elvis was born. A patchwork quilt covers the double bed. A fireplace anchors the two rooms, and there was a wood-burning stove for cooking. Our docent explained that the house was restored and decorated with 1930s-style furnishings.
Walking into the humble two-room shotgun-style birthplace of Elvis Presley is a surreal experience that immediately impacts visitors. The simple decor of the home, with its vintage furnishings, echoes the simplicity and authenticity of the Presley family’s early life.
There’s a sense of wonder in the room where the future King of Rock and Roll took his first breaths. Since I’ve been here before, I knew what to expect, but around me, I heard whispers in multiple languages as international visitors reconcile this reality against their preconceived expectations.
Elvis Presley Tupelo, Mississippi
The Walk of Life reads like an open book, whispering little anecdotes about moments that molded Elvis into a music icon. These granite markers tell of a journey to a time when life was simple, and Elvis was just a young boy playing with his friends.
“Elvis at 13” Statue
The “Elvis at 13” bronze statue allows us to glimpse a pivotal moment. A young child dressed in rumpled work clothes stands with a gaze that exudes determination and strength.
His left hand stretches out, showcasing the warmth and affection that Elvis was known for, even at a young age. At the same time, the other hand clings to a guitar with a sense of security and confidence, emphasizing how music shaped his destiny.
Mississippi Historic and Music Trail Markers
Jazz and blues have long been a part of the American experience, evoking feelings of longing, pain, joy, and hope.
But when Elvis Presley burst onto the music scene, he brought an energetic sound that blended country twang with the soulful rhythms of blues and gospel. This fusion of genres created a unique musical style that resonated with young adult listeners like no other and cemented Elvis’ place in music history.
The Assembly of God Church
While the early years of Elvis’ family life were unstable, the church was a secure counterbalance. The tour guide welcomed us to the church and onto the un-cushioned wooden pews.
After a short introduction about the Pentecostal religion’s Assembly of God denomination, the church transformed into an audio-visual immersion of a church service like the Presley’s would have attended.
Three full-length screens descended from the ceiling and we became congregational participants. At the same time, the video’s preacher and song leaders near the pulpit led a church service re-enactment.
We sang along to familiar hymns as we learned about Elvis’ early years and the gospel music integral to his recordings and concert performances.
Elvis Presley Memorial Chapel in Tupelo
I felt the love and admiration Elvis fans poured into the Elvis Presley Memorial Chapel with their donations to establish this serene place of meditation. I sat on a wooden church pew and soaked in the peaceful ambiance. As my ears filled with the sweet sounds of Elvis’ music, the grand stained-glass window illuminated the room like a beautiful kaleidoscope, casting a warm and welcoming glow over everything within its reach.
Elvis Presley Museum
The Great Depression profoundly impacted Mississippi’s rural communities. Personal interviews and documentary stories in the Elvis Presley Museum educate visitors about how those financial hardships cultivated a deep reliance on family, friends, and cultural traditions.
A display of family photographs caught my eye. One image featuring Elvis’ maternal grandmother highlighted an undeniable resemblance. From the porcelain skin tone to piercing eyes, it was clear that Elvis had inherited some of his grandmother’s best features.
What truly fascinated me, though, were the costumes and Elvis’ fashion evolution. This exhibit captures the essence of his life, from humble beginnings as a poverty-stricken child dressed in denim overalls to the electrifying caped stage performer who was the unforgettable King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Behind the museum building, we followed the winding sidewalk path to a scenic overlook above the main venue building, the chapel, and the Elvis Presley Tupelo house birthplace home. Elvis “Becoming” is a two-part statue with supplemental information on the curved wall behind the sculptures.
A bronze statue of 11-year-old Elvis sitting on a milk crate with his guitar gazes towards the west. What were the thoughts of this handsome, tousle-haired boy? Was he dreaming of a music career in the Blackwood Brothers’ gospel quartet? Did he long to escape the poverty in East Tupelo and Shakerag neighborhoods?
The statue of Elvis as the entertainer overpowers the figure of the boy. In full regalia with his arms outstretched and head tilted toward the sky, Elvis strikes the iconic pose so often seen in concerts and publicity photos.
At this site, I consider Elvis’ life as an inspiration and an omen. It’s a rags-to-riches story, for sure, but standing here, overlooking the impressively curated Elvis Birthplace experience in Tupelo, I realized that this place preserves the context that was real for Elvis when his life was simple and ordinary – before the complexities of fame.
“Reflections” and “Bridge over Troubled Waters”
As I strolled to “The Reflections” pools and the “Bridge over Troubled Waters” area, I continued dwelling on the “Becoming” and the years after Elvis moved from Tupelo to Memphis. Completing high school in 1953 must have been a proud moment for him, he was the first in his family to do so. From there, he worked diligently, taking on various jobs before skyrocketing to fame with “That’s All Right” in July 1954.
In the tranquil outdoor spaces, visitors take a moment to reflect on the phenomenal impact Elvis made in just 23 years of recording – 1954 to 1977. It’s the perfect setting to ponder how Elvis’s music changed the world and yet still resonates with so many people today.
Elvis Presley’s House in Tupelo, Mississippi
The Elvis Presley Birthplace, Museum, and Chapel in Tupelo, Mississippi is more than just a sightseeing trip – it’s an immersion into the life and legacy of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest icon.
The tours and exhibits reminded me that music can connect us across time and distance and inspire us to be our best selves. I recall feeling the same gratitude and inspiration when visiting the Elvis Birthplace house as a teenage girl.
If you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to resist browsing the gift shop for a few souvenirs. Whether it’s a life-sized stand-up poster, a keychain, or a t-shirt emblazoned with Elvis’ legendary image, these mementos are tokens of a personal connection.
Treat yourself to classic rock ‘n’ roll and let Elvis serenade you as you explore Mississippi’s charming towns and scenic countryside. With your windows down and stereo blasting, you’ll surely have some unforgettable memories.
Next stop, Graceland?
Elvis Presley Birthplace Tupelo, Mississippi
When you arrive in Tupelo, visit the Tupelo Visitors Center. Inside, you’ll find everything you need to make the most of your time in the city. The friendly staff provides maps and self-guided tour instructions so you won’t miss any of the things to do in Tupelo, such as the unique “Off the Wall” murals, the Elvis Guitar Trail, or the 14 points of interest on the Elvis’ Tupelo Driving Tour.