That time the Big Chicken almost moved

Big Chicken
Traffic on Cobb Parkway (U.S. 41/Georgia 3) passes the Big Chicken in Marietta, Ga., on Jan. 28, 2017. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

MARIETTA, Ga. (defeo.biz) — The famed Big Chicken is currently undergoing a major renovation. What many passersby and admirers might not know is that the iconic landmark almost moved to nearby Smyrna.

Big Chicken
The Big Chicken in Marietta, Ga., as seen on Jan. 28, 2017. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

The history of the Big Chicken is well-documented. The roadside oddity dates to the early 1960s, when S.R. “Tubby” Davis saw the potential for a restaurant along Cobb Parkway, then a newly repaved, divided highway that predated freeways as we know them today.

Wanting to lure hungry travelers into his Johnny Reb’s Chick, Chuck and Shake restaurant, he erected the five-story-tall chicken, designed by Hubert Puckett, an architecture student at nearby Georgia Tech. After Davis sold the restaurant to his brother, it became a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise, which it remains to this day.

The potential move stems from a conversation KFC officials had with the former city administrator for Smyrna, who asked KFC to relocate the structure to their city. While the company indicated it would consider the idea, the plan never came to fruition.

According to a 1989 report in The Washington Post:

According to Barbara Patterson, wife of Smyrna City Administrator John Patterson, her husband was only joking when the franchise’s representatives asked what they could do to comply with Smyrna’s annexation requirements. “Well, you could build us a big chicken like they have over in Marietta,” Patterson told his wife he suggested. Apparently taken aback, the representatives said they were not allowed to build anything but the standard Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant design. But a month later, they returned and, noting that their lease on the Marietta establishment would expire in 1993 and that the property was tied up in probate court, they offered to move the Big Chicken from Marietta to Smyrna.

The plan never panned out, and the Big Chicken remains in Marietta. While as popular as ever as a landmark, the near move to Smyrna serves as a funny historical bookmark.

Todd DeFeo
About Todd DeFeo 68 Articles
Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is the owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits Express Telegraph and Railfanning.org.