Say Peabody Hotel to a Memphis resident or visitor and the response is “ducks.”
You would expect a hotel whose history stretches back 130 years to be special. You could justly expect its ambiance to exude quiet, traditional elegance, particularly a hotel that was rebuilt during the opulent 1920s. But the surprise when walking into the Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee is finding the gift shop and bathrooms full of ducks: toys, towels, candies and dozens of trinkets.
Although known as the “Grand Hotel of the South” for its more than 460 guest rooms, suites, fine dining room and tradition of being the place where business people and celebrities meet and stay, the Peabody’s most popular attraction is its “duck pond.”
No, it is not outside. The pond is actually the base of the lobby’s sculptured and flower-topped, travertine marble fountain.
Promptly at 11 a.m. a mallard drake and four females descend from their duck palace on the roof with the Peabody Duck Master and exit an elevator along a red carpet. The ducks waddle up a few steps up into the fountain where they swim the day away until 5 p.m.
About 4:45 p.m., the Duck Master explains the duck legend and march to watchers who having heard about the duck walk, jam the lobby. At 5 p.m. the popular fowl promptly march back to the elevator and up to their rooftop home. Once back upstairs, visitors are welcome to take other elevators up to see the ducks in their “palace,” an open air, fenced in covered room.
Begun as a joke in 1933 when then Peabody General Manager Frank Schutt and his friend, Chip Barwick, thought it would be funny to place some of their live duck decoys (it was legal then for hunters to use live decoys) in the Peabody fountain upon returning from a hunting trip. The resulting enthusiasm of onlookers has added ducks to the roster of hotel guests ever since.
However, the Peabody is a grand hotel to stay when in Memphis because it is within walking distance of the Mississippi River, the famed Beale Street of B.B. King, blues, jazz and good casual food and the FedEx Forum – home of the Memphis Grizzlies.
The hotel is also near the Civil Rights Museum, Sun Studios where Elvis Presley, Jerry E. Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins recorded and a short drive to Graceland.
Back at the hotel, guests can snatch a quick muffin and free early morning coffee and a later dessert at the Peabody Deli, do a high tea or dine well at Chez Philippe, the Peabody’s Mobil 4-Star, classic French restaurant. There is also an athletic club and day spa on site.
The Peabody is at 149 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee 38103, 1-800-PEABODY (732-2639)