"We're always competing for the Big Chicken for most iconic (in Cobb)," Marietta's parks director Rich Buss said with a laugh.
PHOTOS: Marietta Square fountain over the years
Who paid for the fountain?
According to a 1985 newspaper story in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Harold Willingham donated $35,000 to make the fountain a reality.
In 2000, after three strokes, Willingham told reporter Jim Galloway that he'd kicked in an extra $2,500 when the city complained about brokerage fees. It still bugged him.
Here's what Galloway, who is still writing about politics for The AJC, said about him at the time: "I could make this a pious ode to a Very Important Person, but I'd be doing the man a disservice. Willingham has had too much fun to qualify for sainthood. There's still a touch of the Southern rascal in him — a flamboyance and immodesty too compelling to ignore."
Willingham died five weeks later at age 84.
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Described as “a Democrat, lawyer and accountant” in his obituary, Willingham served in the Georgia House from 1946 until 1964 and was speaker pro tem under Gov. Marvin Griffin.
While in the general assembly, Willingham created the Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority. So he’s given Cobb water in more than one way.
Credit: Bob Andres
Credit: Bob Andres
Who made the darn thing?
Even though it is located 110 miles away in Alexander City, Alabama, the Square’s fountain also holds significance for Robinson Iron.
“It’s one of the fountains we look at and say it’s one of our most famous fountains,” said Luke Robinson, whose grandfather started the foundry that eventually turned into the modern business.
Can I get one like it for my house?
Robinson said the Marietta fountain was one of the first large pieces the company ever made.
“This one was from scratch and it helped kick off the business,” he said.
They've sold between 15 and 20 "Marietta" model fountains over the years, he said.
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“The scale is fantastic,” he said, “large enough to command an audience, and it’s also not so overpowering that it can’t be used at a residence.”
According to Robinson, you can find them at the Citrus County courthouse in California, The Mall at Partridge in Michigan and a couple private homes.
“It’ll last generations,” he said. “There’s no reason it won’t be here for my children’s, children’s, children’s, children’s …”
Want to know nerdy design things?
You got it.
So the patterns of the upper two bowls are from a collection belonging to a large Manhattan-based cast iron designer named J.L. Mott Iron Works. Robinson Iron bought the rights to use their patterns.
Robinson said what makes the piece unique is those two upper bowls mixed with the eight-foot-wide bottom bowl's egg-and-dart Roman pattern.
What happens to the coins?
Buss, who started with the city in 1993, says sometimes they’ve pulled out $15 and other times $70. But something has changed since the late 1990s, early 2000s.
“We don’t have as much money as we used to … there are people who come up at night and fund their various needs,” he said.
The money they do collect, usually whenever the fountain is drained to be cleaned, it goes to the city’s finance department.
If it’s so important, then why have I seen it missing or turned off before?
Credit: Andy Sharp
Credit: Andy Sharp
Buss said staff will turn off the fountain when the mercury flirts with 27 degrees.
“It’s beautiful when all the ice is hanging off of it,” Buss said, but that extra weight could cause the bowls to crack.
Within the last decade, they’ve had to turn off the water because of drought regulations.
Buss said he thinks the only time the fountain was removed was in 2011 because the interior piping wasn’t working and some rust had developed internally.
How much water does it take?
Buss said the fountain needs about 350 gallons to stay running.
The city has moved to using rainwater.
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OK, we didn’t want the Big Chicken to get jealous, so check out this video from when it was undergoing a restoration ...