The Elvis Memorial Chapel

Historic Building Fact Sheet

Elvis Chapel Arizona

The Elvis Memorial Chapel sits just off the roadside along the famed Apache Trail. (Mar. 2024) Photo Credit: Jake Case

Need to Know Info

Address4087 East Apache Trail
Apache Junction, Arizona
Coordinates33°26’51.2″N 111°30’14.9″W

The Elvis Memorial Chapel is a movie prop from the 1969 Elvis Presley film “Charro!” that survived two fires and was relocated to the Superstition Mountain Museum where it stands to this day.

Originally part of the Apacheland Movie Ranch, it is the sole surviving structure from that iconic Western filming location.

Now serving as a wedding chapel, it stands as a testament to preservation efforts and a unique connection to Elvis’ only non-singing acting role.

In-Depth Story

The Storied Survival of the Elvis Memorial Chapel

Nestled within the grounds of the Superstition Mountain Museum in Apache Junction, Arizona, stands a humble yet historically significant structure: the Elvis Memorial Chapel. This unassuming building holds a remarkable story of survival, having endured two devastating fires and a journey that spans decades.

Originally constructed as a movie prop for the 1969 Elvis Presley western “Charro!,” the chapel holds a unique distinction – it was the only film in which the legendary musician did not sing, instead portraying a strictly dramatic role. During the movie’s production, a specially-made steeple was erected atop the chapel, designed to be blown off during an explosion central to the film’s plot.

The chapel’s origins can be traced back to the Apacheland Movie Ranch in Gold Canyon, a full Western set that hosted more than a dozen TV series, nearly 30 films, and numerous commercials throughout its heyday. It was here that the Elvis Memorial Chapel stood as an important feature, serving as a backdrop for many iconic scenes.

Fate, however, had other plans for this humble structure. In 1969, the chapel survived its first brush with disaster, emerging unscathed from a fire that swept through the movie ranch. Its resilience was put to the ultimate test in 2004 when a devastating blaze decimated most of the Apacheland Movie Ranch, leaving the chapel and a single barn as the only buildings left standing amidst the rubble.

It was at this pivotal moment that Sue and Ed Birmingham, the owners of Apacheland, made the decision to donate the Elvis Memorial Chapel to the Superstition Mountain Museum, ensuring its preservation for generations to come.

In a remarkable feat of perseverance and community effort, volunteers meticulously disassembled the chapel, plank by plank, and carefully transported it to its new home at the museum’s 15-acre grounds. There, they painstakingly reassembled the structure, preserving its original pews while replacing the stained glass window and the iconic steeple, which had succumbed to the explosion during the filming of “Charro!”

Today, the Elvis Memorial Chapel stands as a testament to resilience and a living piece of cinema history. Open to the public daily, with the exception of private events such as weddings, the chapel invites visitors to step into a bygone era and experience a tangible link to the King of Rock and Roll himself.

Beyond its cinematic connections, the Elvis Memorial Chapel holds a deeper significance as the sole surviving remnant of the once-thriving Apacheland Movie Ranch. It serves as a poignant reminder of the ephemeral nature of movie sets and the enduring power of preservation efforts to safeguard our cultural heritage.

As visitors explore the chapel’s hallowed grounds, they can’t help but be transported back in time, imagining the echoes of past productions and the footsteps of Elvis himself, who left an indelible mark on this humble structure. It is a place where the past and present converge, inviting us to appreciate the enduring legacy of cinema and the resilience of those who fought to preserve it.