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History

Headquarters for the Pink Palace Family of Museums, the Pink Palace was originally designed to be the dream home of wealthy entrepreneur Clarence Saunders. The Museum derives its name from the Mansion's ornate pink Georgian marble facade.

Saunders, an entrepreneur and founder of Piggly Wiggly, began building the house in the early 1920's, but due to a legal dispute with the New York Exchange, he had to declare bankruptcy and the unfinished building was eventually given to the city in the late 1920s for use as a museum.

History and Description of the Pink Palace Family of Museum Facilities

Pink Palace Museum

The "new" addition and main Museum building is called the Pink Palace Museum. It houses the Bodine Exhibit Hall, exhibiting a variety of special temporary exhibits each year, and permanent exhibits, which include natural science on the first floor and cultural history on the second floor. Notable among the Museum collections are the Mechanized Clyde Parke Circus, created during the Great Depression by Memphian Clyde Park; and, the first self-service grocery called "Piggly Wiggly," developed by Pink Palace Mansion builder/owner Clarence Saunders, next to the Clyde Parke Circus. First floor natural science exhibits include geology, fossil and animal exhibits.

Pink Palace Mansion


After being closed to the public for 22 years, the Pink Palace Mansion was reopened to the public in 1996. Clarence Saunders, builder of the Mansion, lost his beloved home due to stock reversals in a fight for control of his Piggly Wiggly grocery store stock. Nicknamed "Pink Palace" by Memphians because of the pink marble used in its construction, the Mansion was never occupied by Saunders, but has become a much beloved landmark and enjoyable place to visit for Memphians and tourists alike.

Crew Training International 3D Giant Theater

Opened in January 1995, the Crew Training International 3D Giant Theater draws approximately 200,000 regional visitors and tourists annually. The underground theater is known for its beauty, acoustical excellence and versatility. The theater features a state-of-the-art Barco 4K single-projector solution featuring RealD’s XLW 3D system and a premium QSC multichannel audio system, providing an unparalleled viewer experience along with substantially-increased functionality. The theater takes pride in presenting the best educational and entertaining films on its four-story tall screen.  New films open approximately every four months.

Sharpe Planetarium

The Sharpe Planetarium, a 130-seat theater, uses star projectors to show star fields, visual images and patterns on its domed ceiling. Its programs explore the most recent findings about comets, stars and black holes, plus the latest images from the Hubble Space Telescope. Nationally noted for development of excellent planetarium productions, the Sharpe Planetarium presents educational programs and laser light show to diverse audiences throughout the year.

Lichterman Nature Center

The Lichterman Nature Center, the first accredited nature center in the United States, is a sixty-five acre, wildlife sanctuary and environmental education facility located in the middle of busy East Memphis at 5992 Quince Road. Formerly owned by Clarence Saunders, it was sold to the Lichterman-Lowenberg family and subsequently given to the City of Memphis. The property includes three miles of trails through forest, field, pond and marsh habitats, as well as a greenhouse where native wildflowers are propagated for use and sale. A devastating fire in 1994 destroyed the historic log cabin at the site, which was once used as a visitor center. Consequently, the Nature Center is under going a rebirth as the premiere nature center in the southeast, including native habitat walks, educational and conference facilities.

Coon Creek Science Center

Located on 232 acres in McNairy County ,Tennessee, Coon Creek Science Center is one of the twelve most important fossil sites in the United States. The Coon Creek site has produced over 600 species of animal and marine fossils that are over 70 million years old. In 1990, the skeletal remains of a mosasaur, a 25 foot-long, swimming reptile, were found in the creek bed. The fossils of Coon Creek are unique, as they are in original form, not hardened into stone, with the finest anatomical details perfectly preserved and still showing their iridescent color, growth lines and muscle scars. In addition to fossil collecting, Coon Creek Science Center offers acres of fields and forests with five ponds for studying aquatic life and a telescope site for night stargazing. Five camp-style cabins, a large dining hall with kitchen facilities, make Coon Creek Science Center an enrichment study site for groups. "Members Day" at Coon Creek, held each year for Pink Palace Family members is one of the highlight events of the year.

Historic Properties

The Mallory-Neely House, 652 Adams Avenue is a 25-room Victorian era Italianate villa constructed in 1852. It contains original, premiere examples of stenciled and hand painted ceilings, parquet floors and stained glass windows. Frances Neely Mallory occupied the house for 86 years until her death in 1969 at age ninety-eight. It is the only historic property in Memphis containing original furnishings and is regarded as the finest example of a wealthy family's Victorian home in the region. Changing exhibits and special programs on life in the Victorian Era add to the visitor's experience.

The Magevney House, 198 Adams Avenue, was home to Irish immigrant Eugene Magevney. The white clapboard cottage, constructed in 1836 is the oldest middle-class residence still open to the public. It was the site of the city's first Catholic Mass, wedding and baptism. Typical of a pre-Civil War, middle-class home, it is furnished as it might have been in the 1850s, and features several personal possessions of the Magevney family. The walled city lot envelops a carriage house, grape arbor and herb garden.