Five thousand years ago, God told Noah to build an ark. Fifty-two years ago, He told Elvis Carden to build a guitar.
“I had a vision when I got back from Vietnam,” said Carden, a fervent Christian and country musician who entered what he calls “living hell” at age 17. His vision? To build a giant guitar-shaped structure unlike anything the world had ever seen. Carden, just 18 at the time, drew the blueprints on a cardboard box.
“It was actually supposed to be a mall — with a bowling alley and all that — but it turns out I didn’t have enough money,” he told The Post. “I guess the vision was bigger than all of us.”
So, the plans changed.
Carden started building the five-bedroom, four-bathroom, 3,122-square-foot house — currently listed for $650,000 — in Fayetteville, Georgia, in May 1971. The two-story dwelling, 40 feet wide and 110 feet long, took seven months to frame and no fewer than 16 years to complete.
“People didn’t know what the hell I was building,” said Carden, who enlisted his father, a builder, to help him. When asked how much money he put into it over the years, he laughed and said, “It was three tractor-trailer loads of wall.” For the guitar’s strings he used cable wires and for its keys, he used “big white balls.”
When he finally finished, Carden found his 15 minutes of fame on Fox 5 News. Carden’s unusual abode also became the subject of newspaper stories. Unfortunately, the media attention didn’t quite catapult him onto the country music charts. Still, he gave it his best shot.
“I wrote a song about the house called ‘Living In An Old Guitar’ that I was playing and singing regularly,” said Carden. In hindsight, he added he should have built the house in Nashville.
He intended to live in it with his family, but his young wife vetoed that idea faster than Carden could win her over with a love song.
“She wanted everything perfect, of course,” he said. “She said ‘I ain’t gonna live here without carpet.’”
So Carden, who actually couldn’t afford carpet at the time, traded the house to his mother for 5 acres and an old farmhouse. His mother lived in the house until she died at the age of 87. During her time there, she saw more than her fair share of fly-bys.
“The first photo I got of the house from above was from a pilot who took a photo and brought it to me,” said Carden. “He told me [pilots] were using it as a guide because if you see the guitar house and follow the neck, it will take you right to the airport.”
Despite it all, Carden isn’t the actual owner of this home.
According to the listing agent, Evgenia (Jane) Piven of eXp Realty, that title goes to an investor who bought the house, which stands on a 1-acre lot, in 2012. His goal was to renovate it and have his family live there. But according to Carden, there’s more to the story. He said his mother willed the house to his brother. However, his brother passed away in an accident before he inherited the house. So the house went to his brother’s son, who sold it to said investor 10 years ago. Records show the deal amounted to $55,000.
When the current owner first listed the home in June, the asking price was $789,000. It’s since dropped to $650,000. However, despite upgrades like new hardwood floors and windows, Carden doesn’t think it’s worth even close to that. The property isn’t furnished, nor is there a kitchen installed — and there’s still a lot of work to be done.
“Bring your creativity and imagination to shape this Gem in rough [sic]!” says the listing, which suggests the buyer rent out the head and bottom of the guitar to two families while occupying the main part themselves.
“The target buyer is a ‘buy and hold’ investor who would be open to renting part of the guitar or the whole house,” said Piven, who notes that the property is located in a very quiet area close to the airport. She sees it as a potential wedding venue, ranch, retreat or Airbnb. What prospective buyers need to know, however, is that advertising the home could be tricky.
“I retain all photo rights of the house,” said Carden who says he could sue anyone who uses the photos of the property without his permission. Still, he’s unlikely to take anyone to court. “That’s a lot of work,” he notes. “I’m a 76-year-old disabled veteran — I had a punji stick that went through my left foot — on fixed income. I ain’t goin’ to fight another battle.”
Since the property has been on the market for more than 100 days, the seller is starting to work on projects to make it more attractive. So far, Piven said he’s fixed the fence and improved the septic system. He’s also hired a contractor to add two decks out back.
“If the property won’t be sold by the end of the year, the seller is intending to take it off the market to complete more projects,” said Piven. He’ll relist it later for a different price.
As for Carden, who currently lives in a normal house in nearby Palmetto, he’s still getting visions. “The vision I have now is to build a huge cross.”
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.