It seems as though the Big Chicken has been around forever. Standing like a beacon on the corner of Cobb Parkway and Roswell Road, the Big Chicken has helped many a weary traveler navigate through Cobb County. When you’re lost in Atlanta, locals may direct you to Peachtree Street (there are over 70 streets in Atlanta with “Peachtree” in their name). When you’re lost in Cobb, making a turn at the Big Chicken will always get you where you need to go. But how did the Big Chicken come to be? Who was responsible for creating this googley-eyed monument to chicken?
The story begins with an Atlanta restaurateur named Stanley Reginald Davis. Known by his friends and family as “Tubby,” he began his career in 1939 when he opened Davis Brothers Cafeteria in a vacant typewriter shop on Luckie Street. Tubby prided himself on providing quality food at competitive prices. His business quickly grew, and Tubby eventually launched several other successful restaurants, including one inside Atlanta’s Piedmont Hotel.
In 1956, Tubby came to Marietta and opened a restaurant called Johnny Reb’s Chick, Chuck and Shake. Wanting to capitalize on the north/south traffic on Highway 41, Tubby decided he needed to erect something to attract travelers. He hired Hubert Puckett, a Georgia Tech architecture student, to design a novelty chicken structure over his restaurant. Fabricated by Atlantic Steel, the 56-foot-high chicken was completed in 1963. “I wanted to build it as high as I could to attract customers,” said Tubby. “I had no idea it would become a landmark.”
Tubby continued to operate Johnny Reb’s until he sold the business to one of his brothers. The restaurant was taken over by Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) in 1974. At the time, KFC executives (including Colonel Sanders himself) planned to remove the Big Chicken to make the restaurant match their own branding. Persuaded by the Davis family, KFC executives finally decided to keep it. The Big Chicken was safe, and everyone thought it would be preserved forever. But mother nature had other plans.
In January 1993, a winter storm blew into Cobb County. The gusts battered the old chicken, and entire sheets of metal were ripped from the structure. When the storm subsided, the chicken stood with gaping holes in her side. Within days engineers were on site to assess the damage. What they found was less than encouraging. The Big Chicken was badly damaged and needed to be completed rebuilt or torn down. KFC had a decision to make: tear down the Big Chicken or spend the $100,000 estimated to rebuild the structure. The answer came down to money, and demolition of the Big Chicken was announced on January 15th. The decision did not go over very well with the people of Marietta.
After receiving almost 10,000 phone calls and letters from concerned Mariettans, KFC determined that tearing down the structure was not really an option. On January 27, 1993, KFC Vice President Chuck Rawley announced that the company would “invest up to $200,000 in a new landmark so that the Big Chicken can fly again.” Work quickly began on a new structure, and the restaurant reopened in 1994.
Renovated in the spring of 2017, the Big Chicken is one of Marietta’s most popular attractions. The new restaurant features a gift shop and mini museum displaying the history of the Big Chicken and a collection of souvenirs and artwork inspired by the landmark.
5/10/2017 06:18:41 am
The original Big Chicken did not have a Pepsi sign, but they served Coca Cola. Lose the sign. Be authentic! Better yet, serve the best, Coca Cola!
4/17/2020 10:47:37 pm
I have a piece of the original Big Chicken with certificate of authenticity. Such a cool memory, especially because I now live in Marietta!
12/18/2020 05:54:22 pm
I grew up in Marietta. My dad was an Ironworker. He built most of the hangers on Lockheed as well other places. He also set steel for the big chicken. Even painted the beak because the painters said then it was to high. In 1993 when it restored my sister called the Marietta paper told them he worked it they did an article on him. When it was Funny thing, 40+ years later people start telling me I look like Col Sanders. I even have the white suit and all. I wear it often and folks still say I look so much like him.
10/27/2021 02:20:51 am
These look delicious, love the fact you made these with turkey. I think using turkey makes a little softer meatball, perfect for this time of year.
11/1/2021 04:08:44 am
This looks amazing! Who would have ever thought “skinny” and “fried chicken” would never be in the same sentence?
12/14/2022 08:00:01 pm
Wow! Great recipe for grilled chicken. It was juicy and tender. I used the chicken this time to make chicken pesto sandwiches and will used the leftovers on my salad for lunch tomorrow. Thanks for the great recipe.
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