Aug 16, 2022 - News

Smyrna demolishes controversial Aunt Fanny's Cabin


The city of Smyrna on Friday demolished the building that once housed Aunt Fanny's Cabin. Credit: Kristal Dixon/Axios

The building that housed a controversial restaurant that used Black stereotypes to appeal to customers is no longer standing in Smyrna.

Driving the news: City crews on Friday demolished the former Aunt Fanny's Cabin.

  • Smyrna spokesperson Jennifer Bennett told Axios that City Council members last week voted to demolish the structure after the business that agreed to take possession of the building was "unable to obtain permission" to move it to their property.

Flashback: The council in March awarded a bid to Ashley Limousin Farms to relocate Aunt Fanny's Cabin from its location next to the Smyrna History Museum to property in Carroll County.

  • The city decided against renovating the structure because it could cost up to $500,000.

What they're saying: Mayor Derek Norton told Axios the city found out in early August that the winning bidder could not get the building.

  • "I'm ready to move on and focus on more important things like properly memorializing Fanny Williams and…some of our other awesome projects that we have going on in Smyrna," he said.

Context: The restaurant, known for its glorification of the Old South, opened in 1941 and was named after the owners’ Black servant, Fanny Williams.

  • In the early years of the restaurant, Williams — donning a head wrap and calico dress — sat on the front porch and told customers about Gen. William T. Sherman's burning of Atlanta, the Washington Post reported in July 1992, the same year the restaurant closed.
  • The restaurant was also known for having Black boys with menu boards tied around their necks welcome customers "with a spirited dance and a grin," according to the paper.

The other side: The Coalition to Save Aunt Fanny's Cabin, which opposed the demolition, said it was "shocked and saddened" by the city's decision. Former City Council and coalition member Maryline Blackburn, who is Black, said the building was part of the history of Smyrna and its Black residents.

  • "The cabin should have been preserved to inspire, educate, and guide our community reconciliation and healing process," she said in a press release.

What we're watching: The city has plans to install a memorial to honor Fanny Williams. Norton told Axios that a committee charged with coming up with recommendations on that project could have some concrete ideas by the end of the year.


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