By Heidi Simmons
Winding up the hill from Palm Canyon Drive, there is a sense of going to a secret place. Narrow roads lead to a hide-a-way home of solitude and beauty. There are other houses in the neighborhood, but they are tucked away, private and hidden.
At the base of Mount San Jacinto, between the boulder-infused Dry Falls and Chino Canyon, is an Albert Frey home built in 1946. But you won’t find this Frey house on the Modernism Tour. However, it does have regular visitors who stop to take selfies at the gate. This humble property was Elvis Presley’s “Graceland West.”
This treasure is not one of Frey’s desert modernist style houses with a sweeping angular roof, but rather a discrete Spanish Colonial Ranch with stone pillars and broad wood beams supporting a burnished tile roof. This simple home sits mostly on top of 1.75 acres of hillside. The views from the over 5,000 square foot house with five bedrooms and seven bathrooms are spectacular in every direction. “Graceland West” is for sale.
The house is not move-in ready or turnkey furnished. This was Elvis’s home until he died in 1977 and nothing has been changed since. “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll owned the property for seven years and recorded nine songs in the house,” said Eric Meeks, co-listing agent and author of The Best Guide Ever to Palm Springs Celebrity Homes. “Elvis purchased the house when Lisa Marie was just two years old and the family spent three months out of the year here.” According to Meeks, Elvis also spent his last birthday at “Graceland West.”
The home was originally built for the Jergens family — as in Jergens lotion. In 1960, McDonalds founder, Ray Kroc, purchased the property and Elvis and Priscilla bought it in 1970. Singer Frankie Valli bought the property after Presley’s death, owning it until 1980. After that, it just gets sordid and isn’t worth the trouble to mention the details here. The current owner wants to sell.
Over the years, the property has been kept almost the same, albeit slowly deteriorating. Those involved with the house, since Valli, were ambitious and wanted to restore the property to its Elvis glory days. This has yet to work out.
What is fascinating about the property is how Elvis shaped the house to fit his “needs.” He used privacy glass in the windows facing the street to keep fans from seeing in. He added a roof over the 16-person spa to stop the Paparazzi from taking photos of him and his entourage. But his needs were greater than that. He added an entertainment room, which he dubbed the “Jungle Room.” It still has the same black and white check linoleum floor. There is a bathroom, steam room and sauna off the “Jungle Room.” It has easy access to the oversized party spa.
Presley added an additional bedroom with bright red shag carpet and his and her bathrooms with red and black tile. The addition is just across the courtyard from Priscilla’s private room.
The kitchen has all the original appliances (sans fridge) and flooring from the 70s. The fountain he gave Priscilla in 1971 is right outside the couple’s private bedrooms. The acoustic tiles he added to the living room ceiling are in perfect condition, like he put them up yesterday. If this home sounds like a fixer, it is.
But as you walk through the rambling, sunny house and hear the stories of Presley’s outrageous shenanigans, it informs one about the life of the iconic figure and the significant history of Palm Springs. The potential for “Graceland West” is only limited to the new owner’s imagination – and pocket book.
Beyond the rich, famous and notorious who occupied the property, this is an Albert Frey house with solid bones and tremendous character on an incredible, ideal and spectacular Palm Springs hillside lot. Frey’s architecture and work built Palm Springs into the modernism magnet it is today and Elvis’s Spanish Colonial house is no less important. “Graceland West” has celebrity, fame and history along with the other three important features in real estate – location, location, location.
For information on the property contact Eric Meeks at Coldwell Banker Real Estate 760 567 7646.