Memphis Pink Palace Museum (Clarence Saunders House)

Status: Preserved

Address: 3050 Central Avenue, Memphis

Built: 1922

Architectural Style: Romanesque American

Original Function/Purpose: Residential

The Memphis Pink Palace Museum was placed on the National Register on July 9, 1980.

History: One of Memphis’s most unique museums was originally built as a residence for Clarence Saunders, founder of Piggly Wiggly, the first self service grocery store chain. The building’s architect Hubert T. McGee referred to its style as “Romanesque American Rambling Design.” The house was named Cla-Le-Clare for Saunders’ three children but was dubbed the “Pink Palace” by Memphians due to the pink hue of the marble used to construct it. Before moving in, Saunders planned for the house to feature a lake, golf course, shooting range and bowling alley, but this was not in the cards. After spending over $1 million on its construction, Saunders lost his fortune and never lived in the house. The land was sold to developers and subdivided, and the area became known as Chickasaw Gardens. The house and surrounding 10 acres were given to the city, and the museum opened in 1930. The Pink Palace was remodeled in 1977 and again in 1993-94; among the latter renovations was an IMAX theatre. Following several years of research and design, the mansion once again underwent extensive improvements in 2017 and 2018. All the museum’s hallmark exhibits have now been reinstalled, including the Clyde Parke miniature circus, the replica Piggly Wiggly store, and Burton Callicott’s stunning 1930 murals over the grand staircase, which can be viewed by the public for the first time in decades.

City Council District: 5

Super District: 9

County Commission District: 10

DON NEWMAN