The Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee is one of the most historic hotels in the United States. Located at 149 Union Avenue, near the iconic Beale Street in downtown Memphis and just steps from the Mississippi River, it has earned the nickname "the South's Grand Hotel" and dates back to 1869. It's even registered on the National Register of Historic Places.
The hotel was built by Robert Campbell Brinkley and named after George Peabody, a well-known philanthropist, in honor of all of the contributions he made to the South during the 1800s. The Peabody technically relocated in 1925 to a site one block away that had previously housed the Fransioli Hotel.
The Peabody Ducks
Maybe one of the most notable things about the hotel is the Peabody ducks. The tradition, which has brought the hotel worldwide recognition, dates back to the 1930s when general manager Frank Schutt came back from a hunting trip in Arkansas and thought it would be fun for guests to have ducks in the lobby fountain. His idea was a hit and ever since, five mallard ducks have played in the fountain for guests to enjoy.
In 1940, one of the Peabody Memphis's bellmen, Edward Pembroke, volunteered to help with the ducks. He had previously spent time as an animal trainer in the circus and was able to train the ducks to march through the lobby to the fountain each day. He was dubbed the "Duckmaster," a position he held until he retired in 1991. Every day at 11 a.m., the ducks are ceremoniously led from their home on the rooftop to the grand lobby, and then down a red carpet to their fountain. At 5 p.m., the process is repeated, but the ducks are led back to their rooftop "Duck Palace." The duck march has become incredibly popular. Hotel guests will show up early just to get a spot to watch. The hotel suggests showing up 30 minutes early to make sure you're able to catch the show. Luckily, it happens twice a day in case you miss the morning march.
The hotel also features many non-duck-related amenities. The guest rooms are newly renovated, but still feature plenty of the historical charm for which the hotel is known. The hotel also offers pet-friendly rooms, and in-room dining and room service is also available. Hotel guests can also relax at the hotel's Feathers Spa or workout at the fitness center, dubbed The Peabody Athletic Club, which offers exercise equipment, a heated indoor pool and a whirlpool spa hot tub. Guests can also embark on a history tour within the hotel, and the establishment also holds weddings and meetings in its many ballrooms such as the Continental Ballroom.
The luxury hotel is full of history making it a must-see anytime you find yourself in Memphis, even if you just walk through the stunning lobby. There's the Lansky Bros. men's clothing gift shop as well as plenty of dining options from the French restaurant Chez Philippe to The Lobby Bar, Peabody Corner Bar and Capriccio Grill. The Peabody also offers a traditional English afternoon tea from 1 p.m. - 3:30 p.m -- It's the only hotel in Memphis where this is offered. Talk about the perfect pick-me-up before a visit to the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum or a trip to grab all the Elvis memorabilia at the world-famous Graceland.
This story was originally published on June 24, 2020.