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Kentucky Fried Chicken

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Sanders Court & Café
Corbin, KY
model depicting Court & Café in 1940
In 1930, Harland Sanders, later "Colonel" Sanders, opened a Shell gas station in Corbin. In 1931, he moved across the street to a Gulf station. He then entered into a long-term arrangement with the Pure Oil Company and opened a restaurant. This was probably a similar deal to the one worked out with the Village Inn. By 1937, he was operating the full-scale motel and restaurant complex called Sanders Court & Café. During this time, he developed a secret recipe for fried chicken which would become world famous.

When I-75 bypassed Corbin, Sanders, at the age of 66, took his chicken recipe on the road. He convinced other restaurants to add his chicken to their menus in exchange for a few cents each time it was sold. This quickly turned into franchising and Kentucky Fried Chicken was born. Within seven years, he had 600 outlets. Today, there are more than 10,000 KFC outlets worldwide.

In 1969, the Sanders motel and gas station were demolished. However, in 1990, the Café was restored to its original appearance. It is now used as a KFC restaurant and and serves as a museum. It has recreated the old kitchen, a motel room, Sanders' office, and displays of advertising and other historical items. For more, see these websites: 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Harman Café
Salt Lake City, UT
The Harman Café was founded in 1952 when Pete Harman made a deal with Colonel Sanders to start a restaurant franchise based on Sanders' fried chicken recipe. The name "Kentucky Fried Chicken" was painted on the window of Harman's Café. They sold a boxed meal of 14 pieces of chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, and rolls until Harman came up with the legendary bucket concept. A modern KFC building and sign have replaced the originals. However, the sign and statues of Harman and Sanders memorialize this historic site. The original sign is visible in the photo at the right above. There are lots of other photos and memorabilia inside the Café. For more, see these websites: 1, 2, and 3.

Sanders Court & Café
Asheville, NC
The Asheville Sanders Court and Café was also built before the Colonel moved on to his fried chicken empire. He lived in Asheville for a time but I don't know if that was before or after Corbin, KY. Sanders Court still exists as a rental complex on Weaverville Highway. I don't know if Sanders built any other court/café complexes before he moved on to peddle Kentucky Fried Chicken. For more, see this website.

former Kentucky Fried Chicken
Bossier City, LA
former Kentucky Fried Chicken
Albany, GA
former Kentucky Fried Chicken
Jackson, MS
weathervane sign
Gilt Edge, TN
These Bossier City, Albany, and Jackson buildings are examples of the company's 1968 design with a mansard roof and a cupola. I believe this was the first standardized KFC building design. The metal buildings were designed by Trachte. I don't believe there are any KFCs still in operation that use these buildings. However, there are still lots of them out there that have been repurposed.

The cupolas of these buildings were originally topped with weathervane signs. This one is installed on top of the sign for the Gilt Edge Cafe. The only other two Colonel Sanders weathervanes that I know of are in Maltby, WA and Buellton, CA. For more, see these websites: 1, 2, 3, and 4.

former Kentucky Fried Chicken
Los Angeles, CA
former Kentucky Fried Chicken
Pico Rivera, CA
This former Kentucky Fried Chicken in Los Angeles has housed a Chano's Drive-in since around 2009. The bucket sign was also adapted. This former Kentucky Fried Chicken in Pico Rivera was adapted for a Tierra Mia Coffee in 2012.

Kentucky
Fried Chicken
Goderich, ON
Kentucky Fried Chicken
Niagara Falls, ON
Kentucky Fried Chicken
Ottawa, ON
Kentucky Fried Chicken
Tilbury, ON
This Goderich KFC still has this vintage building. However, this bucket sign has been replaced with a modern flat sign. [photo thanks Mark Comstock]

The Niagara Falls, Ottawa, and Tilbury KFCs are other examples of this building style that I believe was unique to Canada. This franchise was owned by Scott's Hospitality. There were at least 100 Scott's Chicken Villas in Ontario. Their Quebec locations were known as "La Villa du Poulet Scott". All three of these locations now have modern bucket signs. In Quebec, KFCs are called PFKs (Poulet Frit Kentucky).

Kentucky
Fried Chicken
Metropolis, IL
Kentucky
Fried Chicken [gone]
Hayward, WI
Kentucky
Fried Chicken [gone]
Magnolia, AR
Kentucky
Fried Chicken [gone]
Iron River, MI
Kentucky
Fried Chicken
Grinnell, IA
The trademark Kentucky Fried Chicken paper bucket was invented in 1952. In 1961, their first bucket sign was created by Leonard Goldstein (the founder of Lendy's) in Roanoke, VA. By the 1970s, these signs were everywhere. They used to revolve but I don't know of any that still do. When the company dumped the Colonel and changed their name to KFC in 1991, most locations finally got rid of their old signage. In recent years, KFC has brought back bucket signs but the image of the Colonel is colorless and more stylized. The "finger lickin' good" slogan is also gone. For more, see 1, 2, 3, and 4.

The Metropolis and Grinnell buckets are still used at updated, existing KFC locations. Along with the San Jose bucket sign below, they are the only ones that I know of in the U.S. that are still in use. The Grinnell location opened in 1968 with this bucket sign. The owner has to keep the sign clean and fully-lighted to satisfy corporate headquarters which would rather see the sign removed. The Magnolia bucket, photographed in 2008, was gone by 2009. The Iron River bucket, photographed in 2006, was gone by 2010. The Hayward location and bucket, shot in 2007, are gone now as well.

Kentucky Fried Chicken
San Jose, CA
former Kentucky
Fried Chicken bucket
Anniston, AL
This San Jose bucket appears to be an older design than the ones shown in the previous row. It appears to be a match for the one above in Goderich, ON. For more, see this website.

This Anniston bucket has been converted into a giant Coca-Cola cup complete with a straw. It stands in front of Garibaldi's Mexican restaurant. This photo is from 2007. I believe by 2010, the straw was gone.

Mr. Shrimp
Chicago, IL
Mr. Shrimp opened around 1953. I assume this sign was added later and that it was originally a Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket. Mr. Shrimp closed in 2010 just before this photo was taken. For more, see this website.

More Old KFC Bucket Signs:
Hollywood, CA: 1, 2 [gone]
Youngwood, PA [gone]
Port Elgin, ON: 1, 2
Yellowknife, NT

If you know of any others, I'd love to hear about them.

Kentucky Fried Chicken
Marietta, GA
This Kentucky Fried Chicken sign is 55 feet tall and made of sheet metal. It was built in 1963 to advertise for Johnny Reb's Chick, Chuck and Shake. Kentucky Fried took over the space in 1974. The chicken's beak opens and closes while the eye spins around. In 1996, the sign was severely damaged by a tornado and Pepsi-Cola helped pay to restore it. For more, see these websites: 1 and 2.

Kentucky Fried Chicken
Los Angeles, CA
This Kentucky Fried Chicken was designed by Jeffrey Daniels in 1989. Daniels worked for Frank Gehry from 1978-1980 and Gehry's influence is evident here in this abstracted bucket design. For more, see this website.

More Kentucky Fried Chicken:
Kentucky Beef

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