Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Pink Palace: Win Some, Lose Some

This past weekend I was in Memphis and I got a chance to see the Pink Palace. It is currently a museum and has been since the mid-twenties. What is really interesting is the background of this massive, opulent house built with marble that has a pinkish tint. It was never a home. There was never a ball in the grand ballroom or a family enjoying the beautiful residence. 

The builder was Clarence Saunders, who founded the first self-service grocery store, Piggly Wiggly, in 1916. The store featured aisles and a check-out lane. It was the beginning of a revolutionary way of shopping for groceries. The format, which would be a standard for supermarkets, made Saunders millions.
In early 1922, he began construction on an elegant Georgian mansion that was 36,500 square feet. Saunders claimed he was building a landmark that would last a thousand years. Yet he never got to live in the house. But by 1923, Saunders had lost his fortune in a stock market gamble. He had to file bankruptcy, and he lost the unfinished mansion to creditors, who donated it to the City of Memphis. It was opened as a museum in 1930. 

Saunders planned to name the house Cla-Le-Clare after his children, and it was called the Memphis Museum of Natural History and Industrial Arts. But the nickname given to it by the residents of the city, the Pink Palace, finally became its official name in 1967. I'm glad the house has been preserved. It's a great place for research, but still it seems a bit empty history-wise since there is no family story to go with it. I guess it proves the old saying true. People are what make a house a home. 



Kim Smith said...

I have been there for a wedding reception (as a photographer/videographer) but never "been" there for a true visit. Thanks for sharing!

Patricia Preston said...

I wish I could have seen inside. It is beautiful outside.