A Saturday morning fire caused 'extensive' damage to the former home of Elvis Presley on Audubon Drive, but ongoing renovations meant no Presley artifacts were in the house at the time of the blaze.
Memphis Fire Lt. Wayne Cooke said the department responded to the home just after 7:30 a.m. The fire was under control by 7:52, he said. Fire personnel were on scene for several hours.
The cause was electrical, Cooke said, and started in the wall between the living room and dining room. The one-story home was unoccupied and undergoing renovations.
Fire at 1034 Audubon Drive, Elvis Presley’s first home (01:38)
Rhodes College is the steward of the house, now owned by music industry veteran and philanthropist Mike Curb. As an extension of the Curb Institute for Music at Rhodes, the home hosts small VIP events and private music concerts.
John Bass, executive director of the institute, said he stopped by the house Saturday afternoon but wasn't able to get inside because the fire department had secured the property.
'It seems pretty extensive', Bass said of the damage.
The fire department did not have an official damage estimate. Curb purchased the house for $1 million in 2006.
The house was undergoing repairs after a water pipe burst in January, Bass said. As a result, almost all the furniture in the house was in a storage unit in the driveway. The few artifacts that remain from when Presley lived in the house were secured on Rhodes' campus during the renovations, Bass said.
'The mission is to really research Memphis music in a variety of ways, so we use that house, or we have in the past, as a resource for our students', Bass said.
Presley purchased the home at 1034 Audubon in 1956. He lived there for just over a year, during which he skyrocketed to fame, appearing on 'The Ed Sullivan Show' and recording 'Hound Dog' and 'Don’t Be Cruel'. His rising popularity brought waves of fans to the East Memphis neighborhood, eventually forcing his move to the more secluded Graceland.
'He was 21 when he lived there, around the same age as our students, so we use it as a space to inspire our young students of today', Bass said.
Neighbor Ron McCrarey, who had been in the home once before, said he was able to get a look inside the house from the carport after the fire was put out Saturday.
'All the walls are blackened', McCrarey said.
McCrarey said he was outside at 7 a.m. and didn't see any signs of a fire across the street. But 45 minutes later, he said, smoke was pouring from the roof and fire trucks filled the street. Firefighters climbed onto the roof to vent the smoke, he said.
'You couldn’t actually see the flames, just the smoke', McCrarey said.