The Big Chicken

KFC Full Building Shot Marietta, GA

A Landmark Most Fowl

This month marks our 10-year anniversary as Atlantans. Yet somehow, it was only a few weeks ago that we finally got around to making a pilgrimage to one of the metro area’s iconic landmarks: The Big Chicken. 

A Georgia Tech architectural student designed the 56-foot fowl, which first greeted the sunrise in 1963 at what was then Johnny Reb’s Chick, Chuck and Shake in Marietta. It became a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise a few years later.


Oops!

As you can see, the chicken has eyes that roll and a beak that opens and shuts. Back in 1964, when the owners first turned on the motor that operated those moving parts, its vibrations shattered every window in the restaurant. 


KFC Building Verical Chicken Marietta, GA
Strong Storms & Pigeon Poop

In 1993, fierce winds peeled away some of the chicken’s steel panels. That damage revealed an even more serious problem: For decades, pigeons had been relieving themselves on their bird brother, and their poop had eaten away much of the frame. 

KFC decided to tear it down. (And apparently, not for the first time. According to legend, Colonel Sanders ordered it demolished after KFC took over the store. He was the star, dammit, not some steel chicken. But wiser heads prevailed.) But residents protested, and the restaurant reversed course and repaired the sign.


Big chicken collage Marietta, GA
A $2 Million Renovation

In 2017, KFC again repaired the sign as part of a $2 million renovation to the entire store, which now includes a gift shop. It’s certainly the fanciest KFC we’ve ever seen (check out the spoon door handles!). Sadly, the dining room hadn’t reopened when we visited.


KFC Building Looking Up Marietta, GA
Wipe Your Hands!

One last thing, tangentially connected to Marietta’s Big Chicken: Did you know that KFC is largely responsible for popularizing the wet wipe?

This came up on a recent episode of my favorite podcast: No Such Thing as a Fish.  (British humor + trivia = perfection!) A man named Arthur Julius pioneered what he called the Wet-Nap in 1957. A few years later, he persuaded Colonel Sanders to begin distributing them to help customers wipe away anything left over after they’d licked their fingers. 

According to this 2016 article, KFC hands out 30 million a year and has given away about a billion since Julius and Sanders clinched their deal.

You could clean a lot of pigeon poop off a lot of Big Chickens with that amount of wipes! 


When Soyia and I are on the road, we often take and play this game. Click on the picture to purchase it!

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