Elvis slept here: Radisson opens Legends Suite

Radisson Hotel Duluth Harborview Sales and Marketing Director Nancy Kilpo poses with Duluth musician Todd Eckart, impersonating Elvis Presley, in the hotel’s newly redecorated Legends Suite. Presley stayed in the 15th floor suite following Duluth performances in 1976 and 1977. (Photo by Mark Nicklawske)

Elvis Presley fans who want to live like the king of rock and roll now have a special place to stay in Duluth.

The Radisson Hotel Duluth Harborview, 505 Superior St., has redecorated and renamed its 15th floor suite where Presley stayed following Twin Ports performances in 1976 and 1977. The Legends Suite features concert photos, posters, a ticket stub and other memorabilia recognizing the Presley visit as well as tributes to singer-songwriter Bob Dylan — who was born in Duluth — and country music outlaw Willie Nelson.

Sales and Marketing Director Nancy Kilpo said the hotel is celebrating its 50th anniversary in Downtown Duluth — one year late due to COVID-19 — and decided to redecorate the room honoring the three musicians and its most famous repeat guest.

Presley and his entourage rented out the top three floors at the Radisson following concerts at the Duluth Arena on Oct. 16, 1976 and April 29, 1977. Presley died in Memphis, Tenn. on Aug. 16, 1977 — less than four months after his final Duluth performance.

The Legends Suite features a pair of blue suede shoes and other Elvis Presley memorabilia.

“I’ve been here four years and when I first walked into the parlor of that suite I thought ‘This screams ’70s. How can we make this room fun?’ Our hotel, you walk into the lobby and it’s very retro ’70s — and we need to embrace that,” said Kilpo.

Elvis Presley jumpsuits, sideburns and singles like “Moody Blue” have since come to symbolize the decade.

“He loved staying here,” said Kilpo. “Back in the day there was no better place to stay than the Radisson.”

According to Kilpo, Elvis ventured up to the revolving restaurant atop the hotel where he greeted staff but largely stayed in his room during both visits. The mattress he slept on was later sold to a housekeeper when the hotel updated its bedding.

As part of the new room announcement, Duluth musician Todd Eckart greeted guests in a gold lame jacket, dark sunglasses and slicked back hair. Eckart frequently performs tribute concerts to early rock and roll stars like Presley, Buddy Holly and Johnny Cash. He said Duluth was fortunate to host not one, but two Presley concerts.

“It’s pretty amazing considering Duluth is a small-market town,” he said. “You know he went to Duluth, like in October and April, I mean those are not good weather months.”

Eckart said he would like to livestream an Elvis Presley tribute concert from the Legends Suite someday. He said a little rock star mystique still lingers in the suite even though it’s likely Presley only ate dinner, watched television and slept in the room.

The master bedroom in the Legends Suite. The hotel sold the mattress Elvis Presley slept on to a housekeeper shortly after his 1977 stay.

Chris Harwood KUMD program director and musicologist, said the Legends Suite fits with similar designations like “Washington slept here” that are ubiquitous around Revolutionary War sites. He said Presley stayed at countless hotels during his career, so the Duluth room has little historic significance, but recognizing the place is fun and worthwhile.

“It’s a great piece of local interest,” said Harwood. “It’s fun to realize that connection for people around here — and I guess somebody who’s traveling to Duluth who might be an Elvis fan might come here and say ‘Oh sure, I’m gonna stay in that room.’”

Harwood said Presley still has a good following with older music fans in their 60s and 70s and younger people continue to discover his legend.

“Elvis still looms large and that’s fun,” he said. “If the Radisson wants to do this, that’s great. Celebrate it while you can and while there are still people who can remember those days and still love Elvis.”

The Radisson Hotel Duluth Harborview, 505 W. Superior St., opened in May 1970. The unique, cylinder-shaped building was part of the national hotel chain’s early branding. (Photo by Mark Nicklawske)

The 268-room Radisson Hotel Duluth Harborview opened in May 1970 and is the longest operating Radisson Hotel in Minnesota. Its cylindrical shape was designed by architect William B. Tabler to give the Radisson hotel chain a unique look in the 1970s.

Hotel rooms have been renovated over the years but the spinning rooftop restaurant, curved walls and funky retro lobby make it a one-of-a-kind place for Duluth visitors.

Room rentals for Legends Suite, which features two bedrooms, a kitchenette, large seating area and a harbor view, vary depending on the time of year. Kilpo recommended checking the hotel website for availability and price.

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