For Elvis fans January 8th is more than just an ordinary day, it is the day when the first sounds emitted from Elvis Aaron Presley were heard as he entered into the world in 1935. From that point until his death on August 16th, 1977, Elvis defined the music of his generation and won the hearts of many. His passing seemed to only fuel the passion of fans that were determined “The King’s” legacy would never be forgotten. The prime example of this undying devotion lies within the shadow of the 100-foot illuminated star from Mill Mountain in Roanoke, VA where an unassuming little treasure quietly awaits the “Return of the King”.
Despite several years of neglect, this site, unofficially proclaimed “Mini-Graceland”, is the perfect place for those who are willing to give it a second look. It is here, hidden by overgrown weeds, fans can find a Lilipution-sized world full of all things Elvis presented in loving detail. Displays include not only a tiny replica of Elvis’ Graceland mansion but also of his more humble roots in the model of his two-room birth house in Toupelo, Mississippi. Though it is only a few miles from the trendy downtown area and just barely off the main thoroughfare to Mill Mountain Park, this attraction posts no signs, and if it weren’t for the life-sized bronze Elvis statue next to the front porch, one could easily never discover its secrets.
Though it is located in a residential area, visitors are apparently still welcome. We decided to take the “View at your own risk. Not responsible for accidents” sign as an invitation and ventured up the hill to get a closer look. At first we were a bit timid about wandering around someone’s front yard but we quickly got so caught up in viewing all the loving detail that went into the replicas that we began to feel like we were seeing something much larger than just a tourist attraction. It became immediately obvious that someone had poured his heart and soul into this work and this was truly a labor of love – a creation beyond anything we could have imagined. The ravages of time just seemed to fall away and we could almost hear “Heartbreak Hotel” playing in the distance.
Even though it is obviously not in its prime, you can’t mistake the splendor that once was this place. Its reputation still draws fans. A mailbox located on the property indicates that donations are accepted. However, it wasn’t readily apparent to us if anyone ever left a donation or ever checked the box. We have heard rumblings that there are efforts afoot to assist the owners in rebuilding it to its original state. We truly hope so. Beneath the vines and broken branches we saw seeds of hope for a tiny village that is just waiting to be reborn.
Directions: Exit 581 to downtown Roanoke. Turn right onto Elm. Turn left on Jefferson St. Turn left on Walnut Ave. Cross the bridge and take an immediate left on Piedmont. Go one block and take a right on Riverland Rd. The house is located approximately one and a half blocks down on the right hand side. NOTE: This is a residential community with no additional parking available – it is best to park on the side street located just one block up on Riverland Rd. (Ivy Lane) and walk to the house.
GPS reading at the corner N 37° 15.426 W 079° 56.031