Random Roadside Oddities
Atlanta, GA 30312
54 Columns is a collection of 54 columns ranging from 10 to 20 feet tall. It was created in 1999 by Sol LeWitt, a minimalist artist. Known to some as Ghetto Stonehenge, the columns are supposed to resemble the Atlanta skyline. The art project was commissioned by the Fulton County Arts Council. In 2007, the Atlanta City Council designated the 210-acre Freedom Park, which is home to 54 Columns, as an Atlanta Public Art Project. LeWitt’s works can be seen in a number of museums nationwide, including the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. The Connecticut-born LeWitt died in 2007 at the age of 78.
From the late 1960s until he died in the 1980s, John Milkovisch covered his house on Malone Street with crushed been cans. The house — today affectionately know as the Beer Can House — opened in 2008 as a folk art museum. For a small fee, visitors can tour the house and learn more about more about Milkovisch’s passion. From the late 1960s until he died in the 1980s, John Milkovisch covered his house on Malone Street with crushed been cans. The house — today affectionately know as the Beer Can House — opened in 2008 as a folk art museum. For a small fee, visitors can tour the house and learn more about more about Milkovisch’s passion. “They say every man should leave something to be remembered by. At least I accomplished that goal,” one Milkovisch quote painted on an interior wall reads.
Marietta, GA 30062
The Big Chicken, located along Cobb Parkway in southern Marietta, is a true Atlanta landmark. Motorists reference the 56-foot-tall big chicken when giving directions. Radio stations mention it when describing traffic. Airplane pilots even use it as a landmark for navigation. Today, the Big Chicken is a bit of an anomaly, something unique at a fast food restaurant. Cobb Parkway is a string of urban sprawl, one fast food joint after another. Originally built as more or less a marketing gimmick, the chicken has been embraced by locals and has remained a landmark for more than 45 years. After it was damaged by a storm in 1993, KFC debated whether to rebuild the Big Chicken. The community seemed to be in agreement: The Big Chicken was a local landmark, and it needed to remain; KFC shelled out $700,000 to rehabilitate the restaurant and return the giant bird to working order. Today’s incarnation of this local icon features a moving beak and rotating eyes.
By the 1920s, apples were becoming an important crop in parts of the state, including Cornelia. Because of the crop diversification, Habersham County skirted the devastating effects of the boll weevil’s destruction of the cotton crop. In 1925, Southern Railway donated to the city a monument dedicated to the fruit that helped save their community. The seven-foot- tall, 5,200-pound apple statue was molded in Winchester, Va., and sits atop an eight-foot- tall concrete pedestal next to the train depot. The apple was dedicated on June 4, 1926, and a number of dignitaries, including U.S. Sen. Walter F. George attended the event. By the mid 1930s, the apple crop nearly spelled doom from the city, but the statue remained as a reminder of the city’s past.
Along Interstate 75 sits a definite oddity: a Titan missile. The missile, acquired from the Air Force in 1968 after it was declared obsolete, was flown from California to Warner Robins Air Base where it was stored for some time before it was given to the community. Titan I missiles were used between 1959 and 1965 and is considered the country’s first In-tercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). The missile in Cordele stands on what has been dubbed Confederate Air Force Pad No. I.
The Double-Barreled Cannon was the brainchild of Dr. John Gilleland, a dentist from Jackson County, Ga., and a member of Mitchell’s Thunderbolts. Built in 1862 at the Athens Foundry and Machine Works, the Double-Barreled Cannon is today little more than a bookmark in history and a rather unique relic. The cannon was designed to fire two cannonballs connected by a chain so as to “mow down the enemy somewhat as a scythe cuts wheat.” According one account, the cannon was tested on a site along Newton Bridge Road, but since the two barrels did not have the same range, the chain broke in mid-air. According to some sources, one of the cannon balls killed a cow in a field nearby. According to a number of sources, including books and newspaper accounts, the cannon was not used in battle. But, according to a Confederate Veteran article, the cannon was used during a skirmish, but not as originally designed.
El Tiradito is a popular shrine in the Old Barrio section of Tucson, Ariz. The shrine is said to be the only Catholic shrine in the country that is “dedicated to a sinner buried in unconsecrated ground.” According to one version of the legend, the shrine is dedicated to Juan Oliveras, an 18-year-old ranch hand who apparently had an affair with his mother-in-law. His father-in-law apparently later killed Oliveras. The original shrine dates to 1870, but the current version was apparently built in the 1920s. The shrine was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.
Since first unveiled in March 1980, the Georgia Guidestones have confounded and intrigued tourists. An anonymous benefactor, using the name R.C. Christian, showed up in Elbert County in 1979 to build the monument. According to sources, Christian was working on behalf of an anonymous group. The 19-foot-tall monument, comprised of six granite stones, sits along Georgia Highway 77 on one of the highest tracts of land in Elbert County. The monument, known as “America’s Stonehenge,” was built using granite from Elbertson, the “Granite Capital of the World.”
Two days after the massive earthquake of April 18, 1906, ruptured gas lines caused much of San Francisco to burn. Firefighters in many instances were unable to extinguish flames as fire hydrants had no water. However, firefighters vowed to make a stand at the intersection of Church and 20th streets. Miraculously, water flowed from a fire hydrant near the intersection and every April 18, the fire hydrant receives a new coat of gold paint.
Col. Harland Sanders played a pivotal role in the evolution of fast food dining. Before KFC was a staple of modern cuisine, he owned the Harland Sanders Café along U.S. Route 25 in Corbin, Ky. By the late 1930s, Sanders was well known for his culinary offerings, and by 1940 he opened a motel-restaurant complex here.
Apache Junction, AZ 85120
Jacob Waltz could be called the ultimate wanderlust. According to legend, he discovered a great gold mine somewhere in the hills around Apache Junction, but the precise location was lost to history after he died in 1891. A monument in Apache Junction helps keep his story and the legend of the Lost Dutchman alive.
Dr. Charles Bressler-Pettis conceive the idea for the Monument of States in the dark days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Bressler-Pettis wrote to governors and asked them to send stones for a monument; they obliged. The 40-foot-tall monument is topped by a 562-pound bald eagle made of concrete and was built using stones from all 48 states (at the time of its completion). Bressler-Petti also included stones he and his wife collected from other places. The structure, dedicated in March 1943 and located at the corner of Monument Avenue and Johnston Street, contains 1,500 rocks from all 50 states and 22 countries. A number of parties, including tourists, governors, a prime minister and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, also donated stones to the cause. While it can’t be confirmed, a human skull is also alleged to be included in the mix. Interestingly some of Bressler-Petti’s ashes are said to be buried in the monument.
Sculptor David Adickes placed giant busts of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Sam Houston, and Stephen Austin along Interstate 10. If nothing else, the sculptures – adorned with “A Tribute to American Statesmanship” across their base — provide commuters a distraction during their rush hour drives. The park is officially named American Statesmanship Park.
The Olentangy Indian Caverns, located in Delaware, Ohio, north of Columbus, are a series of natural underground caves formed millions of years ago by an underground river that cut through the limestone rock. The cave’s passages and rooms occupying three different levels. According to the caverns’ webpage, Wyandots used the caverns over the years as a place of refuge from both their enemies (the Delaware Indians) and the weather.
Located in downtown McRae, Ga., is a replica of the Statue of Liberty. The 35-foot-tall McRae version was built by the Lion’s Club of McRae at one-twelfth the size of the original. The statue was built using various materials, including Styrofoam, an electrician lineman’s glove and a stump from a nearby swamp. The Lady Liberty doppelgänger is located in Liberty Square, which is also home to a marble memorial honoring Telfair County residents who died in military service and a replica of the Liberty Bell, which is apparently the the town’s old fire bell was taken down (with a crack in it, of course).
Athens, Ga., was once home to Navy Corps Supply School, which was located in the city’s Normaltown neighborhood from Jan. 15, 1954, until 2011. In 1990, as a tribute to the school, the Athens community placed a 4,000 pound, haze gray anchor in the median of Broad Street. The anchor for a destroyer ship was apparently donated because its bent shaft left it unusable for naval purposes.
Located at the intersection of Finley and Dearing streets in Athens, Ga., The Tree that Owns Itself is an oak tree that has been willed to itself. As the story goes, in about 1890, UGA Professor William H. Jackson willed the oak tree and the land that surrounds it to the tree to protect it in perpetuity. While the original tree fell during a windstorm on Oct. 9, 1942, the oak that today stands at Finley and Dearing streets is actually an offspring of the original and is known as the Son of The Tree that Owns Itself. It was planted on Oct. 9, 1946, by the Junior Ladies Garden Club in the exact same spot.
The Brooks Catsup Bottle Water Tower, best known as The World’s Largest Catsup Bottle, is the quintessential roadside attraction. Located south of Collinsville, Illinois, the roughly 70-foot-tall former water tower was built in 1949 by the W.E. Caldwell Co. Over the years, there have apparently been numerous offers to donate the landmark, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002, to the city. They didn’t pan out, and in 2015, the owner of an O’Fallon, Ill., purchased the large bottle.
The World’s Largest Chair was first built in the early 1920s when the city was know known as “The Chair Town.” That was in large part to the Thomasville Chair Co. The original chair, a 30-foot-tall replica of a Duncan Phyfe armchair, was erected in 1922. The chair — made of lumber and Swiss steer hide — was scrapped in 1936, less than two decades after it originally appeared. However, circa 1950, local organizations built a new chair out of concrete. The city apparently covered the cost of the base while contributions covered the cost to construct the chair. The chair was refurbished in 1993 and re-dedicated in 2001. Over the years, the chair has been considered the world’s largest, a title that could be disputed.
The World’s Largest Chest of Drawers, also know as the Bureau of Information, was built in 1926 as a way to bring some attention to High Point, the Furniture Capital of the World. The building, modeled after a 19th-century dresser, stands 32 feet tall. It was renovated in 1996. The building features a pair of six-foot-tall socks dangling from one of the drawers.
Turner County, nicknamed The Peanut Capital of the World, is home to a Golden Peanut Co. shelling plant and The World’s Largest Peanut. The 20-foot-tall monument, built atop a crown on a brick base, was made the official peanut monument of the state in 1998. The slogan painted on the side of the monument reads: Georgia 1st in Peanuts. The monument, located along Interstate 75, is dedicated to Nora Lawrence Smith, a member of Georgia Journalism Hall of Fame.
Chuck Yeager is well-known as a record-setting test pilot. The retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general was the first pilot confirmed to have exceeded the speed of sound in level flight when he did so in 1947. So, in 1970, residents of St. Albans, W.Va., wanted to erect a monument to honor a favorite son of the state (Yeager is a native of Myra). The Yeager monument was dedicated on July 4, 1970. The monument was erected by Explorer Post 376, Boy Scouts of America.