The Pink Palace: Re-Imagined, Re-Opened

The fabled Pink Palace – Clarence Saunders’ beloved 1922 “Cla-Le-Clare” mansion and Memphis institution since 1930 – is set to reopen Saturday, December 8th after a two-year renovation and an over four-year reimagining effort.

Under the expert guidance of Caroline Mitchell Carrico, Supervisor of Exhibits and Graphics Services, StoryBoard Memphis got a sneak-peek tour of the mansion this past week. Here are some highlights.

Above: Museum exhibits supervisor Caroline Mitchell Carrico (right) prepares to lead the sneak-peek tour. The new faux limestone facade of the mansion entrance invites guests into a storyline that takes patrons through the mansion’s history. 
Clarence Saunders dream to build a “self-sufficient” estate that Memphis could be proud of began years earlier with the founding of his Country Store and later of his iconic Piggly Wiggly stores.
The re-opened mansion includes various Memphis artifacts and historical narratives, including this stained-glass window salvaged from the old T.H. Hayes Funeral Home that was demolished in 2010.
A re-imagined Cossitt Library Gallery recreates the first museum in Memphis.
The history of the mansion itself figures prominently in the new storyline. “After all,” says Caroline Carrico, “the mansion alone is one of Memphis’s greatest artifacts.” 
Caroline Mitchell Carrico, Supervisor of Exhibits and Graphic Services. Caroline looks at the renovated mansion almost like her third child; her first child was born five years ago, just before the efforts, and her second during the renovation. 
One of Caroline’s personal favorites is the newly-renovated Grand Lobby, which features the historic murals of Burton Callicott (top), which hung in this space from 1934 to 1995. The murals, painted on thick canvas, were removed in ’95 for extensive conservation, and moved again in 2016 during the mansion renovations. About the lobby, Caroline says, “we are incredibly excited to have visitors be able to walk up the grand staircase to access the second floor of the mansion.”
Once upstairs, visitors will find one of the treasured artifacts that they have been most anxious to see: Clyde Parke’s miniature circus. On this day, December 4, the fully-animated circus was not yet in motion, and workers were still installing the plexiglass that will protect the hand-carved wooden figures, hand-stitched tents and machinations from little hands. 
When Clyde Parke finally donated his circus to the museum in 1970, he took four months to disassemble the circus in his attic and reassemble it at the Pink Palace. Laurel Albrecht (conservator) and Tim Giles (master builder) repeated the feat by disassembling it from its former location – and cleaning every last micro-inch of it – and reassembling it in its new room upstairs and adjacent to the Grand Lobby.
Last view of the Callicott murals in the Grand Lobby.

The restored and reimagined Pink Palace officially opens it doors to the public Saturday, December 8, at 9am. For information and tickets go to

Parts of this story were preceded by the December print issue of StoryBoard Memphis

Mark Fleischer is the founder and executive director of StoryBoard Memphis. The Orpheum’s Forgotten History was originally published as a front-page feature in StoryBoard’s former print edition in November of 2018. This summer-long online series expands from the confines of print and features more in-depth stories and analysis, never-before published interviews and stories, and recorded interviews from the participants who brought the vintage palace back to life.

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