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Aunt Fanny's Cabin, restaurant with racist themes that was once a Smyrna fixture, is demolished

The site where the building once stood in Smyrna could be seen leveled on Friday.

SMYRNA, Ga. — Aunt Fanny's Cabin, a restaurant that was once one of the most well-known around Atlanta and featured overtly racist "Old South" themes, has been demolished.

The longtime Smyrna fixture closed in the early 90s, and had sat for decades as a low-boil tug-of-war ensued in the city over whether to preserve it in some way or simply tear it down.

Momentum for demolishing the building had grown in the last year, with the city citing not only the restaurant's problematic history but also the "significant financial resources" they said would have been required to restore it and make it safe for some kind of public use. 

The city transferred ownership of the building earlier this year, and the site where the building once stood could be seen leveled on Friday.

The city of Smyrna said in a statement that the entity they'd transferred the property to was "unable to obtain permission to move it to their property."

They said they then contacted the next party from the original bid process, who "declined taking possession of the property."

The City Council then decided to honor a vote last year in favor of a task force recommendation to demolish the building "if there is no acceptable proposal for transferring and removing the building" - with those proposals seemingly now exhausted.

"The honoring of Fanny Williams in a substantial way will be moving forward through the work of the Committee assigned by Mayor Norton for the purpose of honoring Fanny Williams," the city said.

RELATED: Smyrna signals intent to demolish longstanding building that housed 'Aunt Fanny's Cabin' restaurant with racist themes

The restaurant began operating in the 1940s. An online history at the website tomitronics details how it thrived on "casual racism that characterized much of the restaurant’s décor and operation."

That included "African-American waiters with sign boards hung around their necks to announce the menu" which "re-assured the almost exclusively white clientele that all was still right with the world even as the shackles of segregation were beginning to weaken all across the South."

The history quotes a Black local talk-show host, C. Miles Smith, who once said it was "pitiful" and that "the overt thing of the little Black menu boys and nannies (waitresses) is very insulting to Black people."

Credit: Jonathan Raymond/WXIA

The restaurant's central mythology also made what the city of Smyrna called in an Instagram post last year a "caricature" out of a local historical figure, Fanny Williams.

Williams' name and image were appropriated for the restaurant by the restaurant's founder, a woman whose family employed Williams for a time as a domestic worker - at a time when such employment offered by wealthy white families often served to "fulfill their fantasies of the Southern Mammy of slavery days," as The Washington Post once reported.

The real Fanny Williams, Smyrna's release said, "had significant accomplishments through her association with Wheat Street Baptist Church, an historical African-American activist church in Atlanta where she was a member."

"In Cobb County, she is reported to have endured the Ku Klux Klan attempting to burn a cross to intimidate her over her activities which included being one of the major fundraisers for Marietta's 'Negro Hospital,' which broke ground in 1947," the city said.

Smyrna said last year it wishes to honor Fanny Williams the person, "not the racist theme and myths of the former establishment."

"Though sometimes viewed in more glowing terms by an almost exclusively white patronage with fond memories of 'great food' and a 'family atmosphere,' these establishments are symbols and sentiments of a time that does not represent or honor the dignity of all, and certainly does not represent our community," the city said.


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