Since its opening on September 2, 1925, the Peabody Hotel has been the place to be seen for wealthy and fashionable society in Memphis and the Mississippi River Delta area of West Tennessee, eastern Arkansas, and northern Mississippi. Chicago architect Walter Ahlschlager was the hotel’s designer. Terra cotta cornices and balustrades decorate the exterior, and the interior recalls a Spanish hunting lodge. The centerpiece of the two-story lobby is a large fountain carved from a single block of travertine marble and is the home of the famous Peabody ducks. They have paddled there since 1932, when hotel manager Frank Schutt returned from a hunting trip and put some live ducks in the fountain. The twice-daily duck march has become a Memphis tradition, as visitors flock to see the Peabody’s most famous residents waddle from elevator to fountain across a red carpet. The fantastic quality of the Peabody extends from the lobby to the top floor, which features an Art Deco skyway, a circular dance floor, and a roof garden.
After a period of declining fortunes in the wake of World War II, this National Register-listed hotel underwent a major rehabilitation in 1980, injecting new life into downtown Memphis and reestablishing the Peabody as a Southern institution and one of America’s grand city hotels. Today it lies in the center of several late twentieth-century developments such as the AutoZone park and the Peabody Place development.