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America's Iconic Signage: Atlanta, GA

Posted on November 05, 2014 | Posted by Kris Williamson

There are so many wonderful American cities with amazing and iconic signage. For this installment of our America's Iconic Signage series, we've chosen Atlanta, Georgia! At less than a four hour drive, Atlanta is easily accessible from Nashville. Even if you don't live in the Nashville area, Atlanta is a major hub for one of the world's busiest airports. Whether you are into sports, shopping, history or museums, Atlanta offers something for everyone. Many major businesses call Atlanta home, and the city also houses an impressive selection of colleges, universities and graduate institutions. With so much to do and see, you can bet that Atlanta has a selection of iconic signage!

1. The Coca-Cola Sign

Atlanta's Iconic Signage: Vintage Coca-Cola sign. 12-Point SignWorks

The current Coca-Cola sign debuted on May 6, 2003, just two days before the global company's 117th birthday. The retro sign is a throwback to the "Neon Spectacular" sign that stood as a landmark for The Coca-Cola Company from 1948 to 1981. The new sign, which can be seen on the Olympia Building on Peachtree Street, contains "over a mile of red neon, and more than 10,280 bulbs." (Source: Coca-Cola History) Atlanta has been home to Coca-Cola advertising since 1886, and this lighted sign continues to be a visual symbol of Atlanta's history with the global brand.  If you can't get enough Coca-Cola history, be sure to visit the World of Coca-Cola while you are in Atlanta!

2. The Big Chicken

Atlanta's Iconic Signage: The Big Chicken in Marietta, GA. 12-Point SignWorks

The 56-foot tall Big Chicken actually resides just outside of Atlanta. Located in Marietta, Georgia, this abstract sign (with moving beak and eyes!) has stood tall since 1963. At that time, it advertised for Johnny Reb's Chick, Chuck and Shake. The owner of Johnny Reb's eventually sold the restaurant to his brother, who then turned it into a Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) franchise. (We aren't sure if that caused any family tension!) In 1974, the KFC logo was added to the giant bird. Although the Big Chicken suffered tornado damage in 1993, the sign was restored to be even stronger. If you were wondering about the beak and eyes...yes, they still move! 
Sources: (Marietta.com, Wikipedia

3. Ebenezer Baptist Church

Atlanta's Iconic Signage: Ebenezer Baptist Church. 12-Point SignWorks

Martin Luther King, Jr. is the most famous member of this historic Atlanta church. The church, also know as Dr. King's spiritual home, was the site for many significant events throughout his life. Dr. King was baptized at the church. He was ordained a minister and became a co-pastor of the church. Dr. King lead the Civil Rights Movement in the United States from the mid-1950s until his assassination in 1968. Upon his death, his funeral was held at Ebenezer Baptist Church. Restoration of the church, as a result of a Save America's Treasures Grant, began in 2001. Phase I of the restoration included repairs to the historic sign. (For a time, this neon sign would not light up, but now it does.) Phase II will restore the sanctuary and fellowship hall to the way it looked from 1960-1968, when Dr. King was a co-pastor with his father.
(Source: NPS)

4. The Varsity

Atlanta's Iconic Signage: The Varsity. 12-Point SignWorks

If you've driven the Downtown Connector (or the stretch of Interstates 75/85 in Downtown Atlanta), you've noticed the famous 'V' sign of The Varsity. If you haven't noticed it, you definitely keep your eyes on the road! The Downtown Atlanta location is the largest drive-in in the world. Yes, I said the world. It can hold 600 cars and over 800 people inside! According to The Varsity's website, over 30,000 people can visit the Downtown Atlanta location in one day when Georgia Tech has a game.

Here are some fun facts about The Varsity:

  • Two miles of hot dogs, a ton of onions, 2,500 pounds of potatoes, 5,000 fried pies and 300 gallons of chili are made from scratch daily.
  • The restaurant uses only the freshest ingredients, often having from three to six deliveries per day.
  • The Varsity has hosted notables from the entertainment industry, the sports industry, the Governor's mansion, the White House, and other international guests.

The Varsity is definitely a place to visit while you are in Atlanta, but maybe not on a Georgia Tech game day!
(Source: The Varsity)

5. The Fox Theater

Atlanta's Iconic Signage: The Fox Theater. 12-Point SignWorks

The Fox Theater's history did not begin with tales of theater goers, movies, concerts and such. It actually originated as the potential home for Atlanta's Shriners organization. Construction of the elaborate structure, however, turned into a financial burden for the Shriners. Shortly before completion, the Shriners leased the ornate building to William Fox, a movie mogul building theaters around the nation. Sparing no expense, Fox invested $3 million into the 250,000 square foot building, and the theater opened on Christmas Day of 1929. The Great Depression took its toll on the theater, and Fox lost his beloved movie palace in 1932. For thirty years the theater remained a popular Atlanta landmark for movie and concert goers. Unfortunately, it lost its luster in the late 1960s. In 1974, the theater closed and faced demolition. With this news, Atlanta residents rallied to "Save The Fox" and raised the money to rescue the famous theater. The theater reopened in 1975 and continues to run as a member of an "elite group of not-for-profit theaters in the country." Located on Peachtree Street, the theater and its vintage sign are two treasures in Atlanta's history.
(Source: The Fox Theater

We could go on and on! Other notable iconic signs in Atlanta include The Plaza Theater, Krispy Kreme Donuts (yum!), the Olympic Rings, and Underground Atlanta. We know there are even more than that! Do you have a favorite sign in Atlanta? Let us know in the comments sections below.

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