Task force recommends former Aunt Fanny Cabin restaurant be demolished in Smyrna

SMYRNA, Ga. — A metro Atlanta city is deciding what to do with a decades-old restaurant that became a stable but also used racist imagery and stereotypes to evoke the “Old South.”

On Monday afternoon, a Smyrna task force met to debate the past and future of Aunt Fanny’s Cabin and recommended the building be demolished.

Aunt Fanny’s Cabin was originally a sharecropper’s home built in the 1890s. The house turned into a restaurant during World War II and many celebrities dined there for decades before the place closed in the early 1990s.

Guests included sports icons Jack Dempsey and Ty Cobb and Hollywood star Doris Day. Former President Jimmy Carter stopped at the cabin during his presidential campaigns.

Smyrna later bought a front section of the building and attached it to the city’s welcome center. But the structure was deemed unsafe earlier this year and city leaders have been discussing what to do with it: preserve, rebuild, demolish or give it away.

But Smyrna Councilman Travis Lindley said the restaurant’s infamous reputation makes it an easy call.

“It’s an embarrassing, very complicated and frankly hurtful story of our past,” Lindley told Channel 2′s Berndt Petersen.


Imagery of the “Old South” was part of the restaurant’s theme. According to news reports, young Black people hired as servers wore wooden menu boards around their necks and the walls had framed advertisements for slaves.

“The young boys —that look like my son’s age— carrying around menu boards on their backs. Or the placemats in there. We have images of that. Graphically showing some of these images. It’s painful,” said Councilman Lewis Wheaton. “How we wrestle with that history relative to a building is something we need to think carefully about.”

The namesake “Aunt Fanny” was a real person. Fanny Williams was a cook and housekeeper for the family that owned the restaurant. Wheaton said she was a mascot for the place but neve had a financial stake.

Refurbishing the site could have cost roughly $550,000. The demolition could cost around $400,000. The city council will have the final say likely at a meeting next month.

“Does it have value worth repairing and spending tax dollars? I don’t think it does,” Lindley said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.





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