Even if you were never a fan of Elvis Presley’s music, there’s no denying that he changed the world of music forever. The Southerner possessed a certain suaveness that women adored and men desired, all while remaining humble in front of his audiences. His straightforward demeanor may appear to contrast with his opulent lifestyle and a gleaming customized Cadillac limousine with a gold-plated TV and a refreshment bar.
His fascination with wealth and gold, however, was largely influenced by the poverty in which he grew up. In January 1935, Elvis Presley was born as the sole survivor of twin boys in Tupelo, Tennessee. Vernon and Gladys, his parents, were living in a two-room shotgun house at the time. For many years between the Civil War and the Great Depression, shotgun houses were a popular style of architecture in the South.
The name comes from the fact that you can see straight through the house from front door to back door, much like a shotgun barrel. These small, rectangular houses were usually only one story and were built quickly to provide affordable housing for those who could not afford to build stately brick homes with many rooms. While there are many different types of shotgun houses, Elvis’ birthplace only had two rooms: a kitchen/main room and a bedroom.
The house was built by Elvis’ family members and has a small front porch and few windows. There is no hallway, as is common in shotgun houses, and each room flows into the next. The items inside the house are not the originals that belonged to Elvis’ family; they have been lost to time and were most likely sold when the family relocated. The pieces inside the house, on the other hand, are representative of what families in the area would have used at the time.
Pieces like the zinc-lined pie safe, wooden ironing board, and mismatched table and chairs were common in the days before every home had the modern conveniences we have today. Whatever the house’s shortcomings, you have to admire the 1930s fruit wallpaper in the kitchen and the lace curtains in the bedroom. Considering all of the places he visited, the celebrities he met, and the glitz and glam of his bejeweled jumpsuits, Elvis Presley’s birthplace is a stark reminder of how most poor people lived at the time.