Hey, that house looks just like Graceland
So why is a replica of the King’s Memphis mansion sitting in an Orlando subdivision?
Published: September 11, 2013
The phrase “hellish grinding” might be too strong to describe the noise the acorns were making under my feet. But the sharp crackling cut through the stillness in the air at Hyland Oaks Estates with enough intensity that I stepped off the sidewalk and walked instead on somebody’s nicely manicured front lawn. Usually when you wander through your average Florida subdivision, you hear some kind of errant noise – kids laughing, the stilted hiss of an angry sprinkler – but this stretch of homes in Pine Hills is tiny and cloistered enough to be movie-lot silent, and I wished to disturb no one. Indeed, a few of the homes on this street look like they were transported directly from a Ward Cleaver wet dream. But one – the crown jewel of Hyland Oaks – is a little different. It looks like it would fit in better on Elvis Presley Boulevard in Memphis, Tenn., than on Pine Street in the Cleaver hometown of Mayfield.
This is the house I’ve come to see.
When you round the main curve of Hyland Oaks Drive, the palace comes into view. Dead center at the end of the cul-de-sac, this bona fide mansion greets the world with a beige limestone facade and Roman columns that frame a double-door entryway. The entire property sits behind a massive fence and is set back far enough to make room for a massive front garden and winding white driveway. Blocking you from strolling up the drive are two massive white gates shaped like books of sheet music. Upon both dance a flurry of black musical notes and matching silhouettes of Tupelo’s most beloved son, Elvis Aaron Presley.
It’s these gates that confirm what you might already be thinking when you first see this opulent manor – it looks just like Graceland.
Orlando’s Graceland replica is a little piece of kitsch buried deep in a cranny the average tourist would never manage to uncover. A collection of recycling bins sitting beneath those white gates are the tipoff, however, that this is a private residence – it always has been – and they’re not encouraging any traffic otherwise.
On this particular day, one of the front gates is wide open, a rare sight based on past visits I’ve made to the home – naturally, it’s the gate boasting the “Beware of Dog” sign. At the end of this specific driveway segment, tucked away under a ceiling of Spanish moss as if to entice would-be trespassers, is an early 20th-century roadster. It’s jet black with a silver grill and immediately brings to mind Baz Luhrmann’s recent stab at remaking The Great Gatsby; the vehicle is too far off to make out any other detail. As I jostle my pants pocket to get hold of my camera, the advertised canine trots into view from just behind the car. I freeze. He’s yellowish, adult and appears to be in the middle of average dog stuff (sniffing, digging, etc.). I realize that if he notices me this could quickly go awry. I don’t have health insurance. This beast is within his rights to attack me. I’m ogling his Roosevelt-era wheels. I turn slowly and pace away, careful not to step on any acorns.
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