The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

April 14, 2009

Off the Beaten Path: The World’s First KFC in Murray Utah

Filed under: Food, travel, Wanderings — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 9:35 am

One of my personal cardinal rules of traveling is that when I’m away from home, I try to avoid eating at places that I can find at home as much as possible.  Although sometimes I’m not so good at actually following this rule, in general it means that I try to avoid eating at any of the big chains that are all over the place up in the Seattle area when I’m out on the road.  I decided to make an exception to this rule today for something I’ve passed by a number of times but never actually had a chance to check out:  The world’s first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise, located on State Street  in Murray Utah, a few miles south of downtown Salt Lake.  Originally opened in 1952, it was at this location that the product was given the name of Kentucky Fried Chicken (the Colonel had never bothered naming it before then) and the famous KFC bucket was first used.  The actual restaurant itself (a picture can be found here) stood until 2004 when it was demolished to make way for the modern (and much larger) KFC restaurant that stands on the site now, which also serves as something of a small KFC museum.  After the jump, a closer look at this place, and some of what is contained inside.

High overhead, customers are greeted by the once ubiquitous spinning bucket that has now largely fallen out of favor, and become something of an anachronism in the places where it remains.  I don’t think this one actually spins (at least it wasn’t spinning when i was there)  but in addition to a modern KFC logo on the side facing the street, the opposite side of this particular bucket features the design of the first ever bucket, as used here in 1958.

Outside the front door of the restaurant is this bronze statue of Colonel Sanders and Pete Harmon.  Harmon was the owner of several restaurants in the Salt Lake area, and Sanders had successfully run a cafe at a gas station which served up his famous chicken recipe in Corbin Kentucky for a number of years until it went bust after the newly constructed freeway bypassed the town of Corbin, and left Sanders essentially broke.  The two met at a restaurant convention, and in 1952, Colonel Sanders was passing through Salt Lake and paid a visit to Harman, providing a demonstration of his chicken recipe using spices purchased from a grocery store and a borrowed pressure cooker.  Harman was impressed, and begun selling the chicken the very next day, painting the name of Kentucky Fried chicken on the window of the restaurant.  The rest is, of course, history.  The Harman Management Corporation still runs over 300 KFC franchises today.

The restaurant itself is run as a standard KFC, although it does feature a chicken buffet (which is something I’ve heard of, but never seen in a KFC at home) and a handful of other non-typical items on the menu such as ice cream.  There are a number of displays throughout the restaurant, many of which are integrated into the tables.  This particular one discussed the history of the KFC bucket.

Other displays inside the restaurant display some of the various memorabilia, including one of the original pressure cookers, a number of vintage boxes and buckets, and various ephemera hung up and framed on the walls.

The proverbial crown jewel of the collection of memorabilia found here is one of Colonel Sanders’ trademark white suits, purchased in 2002 at a charity auction for the price of $80,000. 

If I was a redneck I’d probably be getting this picture framed and hanging it on the wall in the living room.  Heck, I might just do that anyway…


  1. omg, I need fried chicken right now.

    Comment by mason — April 16, 2009 @ 8:21 pm

  2. actually that is not really the first one. it is called Kentucky fried chicken for a reason.

    The World’s First Kentucky Fried Chicken®

    For many years, people from all over the United States and the world have enjoyed the culinary creation of Corbin’s most famous citizen — Harland Sanders, known worldwide as Colonel Harland Sanders.

    Even though people all over the globe are familiar with the snow-white bearded restaurant icon, few are familiar with how the Colonel got his start in the restaurant business.

    Sanders, who was born on Sept. 9, 1890 in Henryville, Indiana, lost his father at the age of six. After completing the sixth grade, Sanders quit school and went to work at a variety of jobs. During his early years, Sanders worked as a farm hand, streetcar conductor, steamboat ferry operator, railroad fireman, secretary, insurance salesman, tire salesman and furniture store owner. However, it wasn’t until 1930 that Sanders moved to Corbin, where he would one day forge the culinary empire for which he was famous.

    Once in Corbin, Sanders opened a service station, which was located on a spot near where the current Kentucky Fried Chicken® is located. In the back of that service station, he operated a lunchroom which consisted of one table, surrounded by six chairs. It wasn’t long, however, before word spread and Sanders found it necessary to expand his capacity.

    By 1937, Sanders had built Sanders’ Cafe, which seated 142 customers. At this restaurant, it was soon discovered that Sanders’ fried chicken was the most popular selection on the menu.

    Sanders often told of his search for the right recipe. It was while experimenting in his Corbin kitchen, that Sanders found his famous and closely guarded combination of eleven herbs and spices which he claimed “stand on everybody’s shelf.” It wasn’t only Sanders’ recipe of herbs and spices that made his fried chicken unique. He also used a pressure cooker to fry his chicken.

    In 1939, fire destroyed the eatery, which Sanders then rebuilt as both a restaurant and motel. For many years, the restaurant and motel served as a popular stop for travelers driving along what was then the major north-south route — US 25. Business continued to boom until the completion of Interstate 75, which provided an alternative route for motorists…a route which no longer directly passed Sanders’ restaurant.

    Sanders subsequently auctioned the restaurant and motel off. At the age of 66, he began to sell franchises based on his famous chicken recipe. Although he was a pioneer in the relatively new business of franchising, initial sales were slow. His first franchisee went to Pete Harman of Salt Lake City, Utah. By the late 1950s, more than 200 Kentucky Fried Chicken® franchises had been sold in the United States and Canada.

    During the administration of Kentucky Governor Ruby Laffoon, Sanders was commissioned as a Kentucky Colonel. He was re-commissioned in 1950 by Governor Lawrence Weatherby. Although he had been a Kentucky Colonel for nearly two decades, it wasn’t until after 1950 that Sanders began to look the part, growing his trademark mustache and goatee and donning his white suit and string tie.

    Sanders’ oldest daughter Margaret suggested that her father start selling fried chicken as a take-home item. The first KFC® carry-out service was started at a restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida.

    In 1960, Sanders moved the headquarters of his growing company to Shelbyville, Kentucky. On February 18, 1964, Sanders sold his franchise business to former Kentucky Governor John Y. Brown Jr. and Jack Massey for $2 million. Sanders was retained on salary as spokesman for Kentucky Fried Chicken®.

    Over his lifetime, Sanders reportedly contributed money to religious charities, hospitals, medical research, education, the Boy Scouts®, Junior Achievement®, and the March of Dimes®.

    Regardless of where he appeared, Sanders was immediately recognizable. At the age of 87, he testified against mandatory retirement before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Aging.

    Sanders died on Dec. 16, 1980, after which his body lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort. He was buried in Louisville’s Cave Hill Cemetery.

    Each year, thousands of customers make a stop at the Corbin Kentucky Fried Chicken® location, where they can view a variety of items from the early days of Sanders’ restaurant business, including a barrel of his famous recipe, a life-size statue of the Colonel, as well as a replica of his original kitchen.

    Located at 688 U.S. Highway 25 West in Corbin

    Open daily from 10 AM to 10 PM

    Tour groups are welcome

    Bus parking is available

    Directions: From I-75 take exit 29, go south on 25E one mile, then right on 25w one-half mile. Located at the junction of 25E and 25W in Corbin.


    Comment by james42519 — August 1, 2009 @ 8:53 pm

    • They don’t claim to have invented Kentucky Fried Chicken (the Colonel obviously gets credit for that part,) but they do happen to have been the first to open a KFC franchise, and were also the ones who gave Kentucky Fried Chicken its name.

      Comment by Brian Lutz — August 2, 2009 @ 1:07 am

      • agreed. nice research though well put together. it wasnt kentucky fried chicken until he went to Utah and opened The World’s First KFC. before that it was just good chicken at some restaurant/motel in kentucky. it wasn’t kentucky fried chicken it was just fried chicken in kentucky. same recipe though

        Comment by skylar — January 28, 2010 @ 2:17 pm

  3. Actually the first was in Salt Lake City. It is a Chevron now. The one in Murray is the second, but that’s ok.

    Comment by Jefferson — June 4, 2010 @ 12:05 pm

  4. did i read rhat you are from Seattle? Just 40 miles norrh in Arlington is a KFC Buffet

    Comment by kathy — October 1, 2010 @ 10:32 pm

  5. Kfc still stands for the name still stands for the colonel founding chicken but the the stores and the management is … let me tell you Chicken! $%-T There just about get in get out … look out if They make a mistake oh they make it your fault.Kiss another family night gone bad

    Comment by kevin — January 30, 2012 @ 5:24 pm

    • Let me know when you decide to use punctuation in this comment. Then it might actually make sense… Oh, and proper spelling and grammar are usually helpful in getting your point across. Thank you.

      Comment by Jasony Kanoli — February 10, 2012 @ 2:27 pm

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