Photos by Nicholas Scott Hall
In the late '60s, Elvis Presley spent many days horseback riding at the Circle G Ranch in Horn Lake, Mississippi. You can read about that time and hear memories from Elvis' pal Jerry Schilling here.
During my early morning visit to Circle G, it wasn’t hard to imagine why Elvis had chosen the ranch as a refuge. Standing near the lake, all was quiet except for the whirs of occasional cars whooshing down the highway, the murmuring chorus of locusts, and the caws of circling birds.
A big pink building (erected after Elvis’ departure; briefly home to a restaurant) acts as an identifying landmark for passing traffic on Highway 301. For a time, the “Honeymoon Cottage” was occupied by a florist, but both the house and the rest of the ranch have sat vacant for years. Good news for Elvis fans: Plans to breathe life back into Circle G are under way.
The land was purchased by a group of investors led by Mississippi native Davage “Buddy” Runnels Jr. in 2014. “The goal is to preserve the peace and serenity Elvis and Priscilla felt when they were there,” says Whitney Lee, director of marketing and public relations for the new incarnation of Circle G. Historically significant components, like the barbecue pit and the cottage, will be carefully restored. The cottage will eventually be open for tours, after it is relocated, off Goodman Road, closer to the lake, where a water feature synchronized to music will be installed.
Plans also include restoring the stables and establishing a certified equine therapy program to offer mental and physical rehabilitation for special-needs children and veterans with PTSD. An outdoor amphitheater will provide a venue for live music and other events, Lee says, so it can be “a place to celebrate the culture of Mississippi, because Elvis has been a part of shaping that.”
The group is now working on city entitlements and required approvals. And while a groundbreaking date has not been set, “I’ve got my finger on the button ready to hit ‘go,’” says Lee.
“People have tried to reinvent the ranch over the years,” Schilling says. “Would I like to see it developed? Of course. It was a big part of our lives; it was a big part of Elvis’ life and Priscilla’s — all of us. It’s a big piece of history.”