Piggly Wiggly founder Clarence Saunders began building his 36,500 square foot dream house in 1922. He wanted a home "Memphis would be proud of, a real Southern showplace," and he wanted all materials, contractors and even the architect to be Southern.
Memphis architect Hubert T. McGee designed a home built of pink Georgian marble, featuring a pipe organ, ballroom, indoor swimming pool, shooting gallery and bowling alley.
Sadly, Saunders never got to sleep in his dream home. He lost a battle with the New York Stock Exchange in 1923 and went bankrupt, losing his fortune and his unfinished mansion, which was then donated to the city of Memphis.
The city spent $150,000 to complete the building and landscape the grounds. The impressive lobby was finished with marble floors, walls and stairs, and a marble fireplace bearing the city’s seal was installed in an adjacent room, which would have been Saunders’ living room.
Perhaps the most striking details in the lobby, however, are the stuffed polar bear and the murals painted by Burton Callicot, which hang as the only remaining example of W.P.A. art in Memphis.