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|CALL BOX...IS ELVIS STILL IN THE BUILDING?
June 12, 2016 - INQUISITR / Elvis Express Radio
|Dear Call Box:
I heard there was an Elvis suite at the old Hilton Hotel. Can you tell me if this is true?
Dear D.K.: Yes, though Elvis really has left the building, and this time no vestiges of the King of Rock ’n’ Roll remain. Room 1010 at the Hilton Hotel on the Southbank was known as
the Elvis Suite because Elvis Presley stayed there on four occasions.
Until he died in 1977, no one else could rent the bedroom, which was appointed to his liking, according to Times-Union archives.
The hotel’s chief engineer Ramsey Robertson told the Times-Union in 1995 that the room had a big brass bed, black-out curtains, hanging lamps and plush accessories in red, gold
and black. He also recalled that was somewhat gaudy.
“We weren’t allowed in there very much,” Robertson said.
However, his mother-in-law got to bring Elvis a home-baked “chocolate-chocolate” cake after she won a contest to meet him.
His entourage occupied the top three floors of the hotel at 1201 Riverplace Blvd. Often, female fans would try to ride to the top to catch a glimpse of Elvis, snap a photo or get an
autograph. Usually, his bodyguards would stop them at the ninth floor, find out what they wanted and return with an autographed photo. Sometimes, Robertson recalled, they would
line them up in the hall on the 10th floor. They would walk in one door, get a peck on the cheek and come out the other, he said.
As for Elvis, he took the service elevator. His last stay at the Hilton was in May 1977, about his three months before his death on Aug. 16. Prior to that May concert, the hotel was
given a facelift that featured an upbeat, tropical look with tones of flamingo reds, island greens and Florida golds, the Times-Union reported.
After his death, Elvis’ associates removed his belongings. In 1996, the legendary entertainer’s suite was restored when new owners renovated the hotel, which had closed in 1992.
The Hilton’s new general manager told the Times-Union that he was working with Elvis impersonator Rick Marino on the project, which would be tastefully done with some
Staff writer Judy Wells stayed in the suite on the night of Oct. 15, 1999, for what she called “the interest of scientific inquiry and firsthand observation.” Now retired, she told Call Box
that she even brought a banana and a jar of peanut butter that she opened and placed on the suite’s table. But Presley did not show up, and nary a bite was gone the next day.
Wells said she ate the banana for breakfast.
As for the two-room suite, its colors were a white-washed celadon, a light ecru and bits of pale coral, and its dark furniture was classic Colonial-style, she said. But in a nod to the
King, there were framed gold 45s on a wall, an Elvis-topped phone with the King singing when the handset was picked up, an Elvis lamp with a swinging pelvis, an Elvis clock and a
Don’t Step on My Blue Suede Shoes mat in the foyer.
Concert promoter John Mullis said Elvis liked to stay at the Hilton because he could stand on the balcony and look across the St. Johns River at the prominent Florida Theatre sign
on the back of its building, Wells said.
His first Jacksonville concerts were in the mid-1950s before the Hilton opened. He stayed at Baptist Hospital after one of his Wolfson Park concerts in February 1956. The pace of
one-night stands on tour had taken its toll, he was last on the bill, and he collapsed after being escorted from the stage, according to internet accounts. During his appearances at
the Florida Theatre in August 1956, he spent the night at the Roosevelt Hotel.
He stayed at the Hilton in April 1972, March 1975, September 1976 and May 1977.
Now the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, it underwent a full renovation last year, said Karen Padgett, sales coordinator. There is nothing that denotes that Elvis ever slept there, she
said. The suite has been enlarged and is decorated in neutral colors. Only once or twice a year will guests mention the Elvis suite, Padgett said.
And as far as we know, there have been no recent sightings of him looking out from the balcony.