No bids submitted for Smyrna’s controversial Aunt Fanny’s Cabin

No one wants Aunt Fanny’s Cabin.

No bids for what remains of the once-famous restaurant were submitted by Tuesday’s deadline, Mayor Derek Norton said.

Smyrna decided in late December to demolish the condemned facility once used for small events. The city also released a statement on the “racist theme and myths of the former establishment.”

“We are giving it to (anyone) that would want to move it,” Norton said Tuesday. “Not one historical group or preservation society (has come forward).”

A group called “The Coalition to Save Aunt Fanny’s Cabin” is asking the city to allow more time for bids. If there was still no indication of interest by the close of business Tuesday, the city will go forward with plans to demolish the controversial structure, which is in disrepair, Norton said.

The mayor said the cabin will be a discussion item during a Tuesday work session of the City Council. He added that the city is committed to honoring the legacy of Fanny Williams, the Black woman the restaurant was named after. She was a longtime servant of the wealthy Campbell family that was among Smyrna’s first settlers. A civil rights activist, she spoke out against the Ku Klux Klan and helped to raise money to build the state’s first all-Black hospital in Marietta.

Aunt Fanny’s Cabin became world famous in the 1940s for its southern cooking. After Isoline Campbell opened the establishment in 1941, racially demeaning stereotypes were used to entertain guests. The servers were Black boys who wore wooden menu boards around their necks. And there were reports that framed slave advertisements decorated the walls.

The building was moved to its current location at 2875 Atlanta Road in 1997 from Campbell Road and was neglected by former Mayor Max Bacon’s administration, Norton said.

“There’s standing water on the roof,” he said, of the dilapidated building. “The floor is separating. It’s literally about to fall in.”

ExploreGhosts of the ‘Old South’ haunt preservation of Aunt Fanny’s Cabin in Smyrna

The Cobb County NAACP and former Councilwoman Maryline Blackburn were among coalition members who gathered at the Atlanta Road site Monday. During a press conference, the group called on Norton to retain city ownership of the building and restore it as a historical site at the current location to honor Williams.

A phone call and email to the Cobb NAACP branch was not returned to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

During a call with the AJC Monday, Blackburn said she believes the cabin’s history is embarrassing to Smyrna officials and moving it would detract from a time that shouldn’t be forgotten. Employees at the cabin endured what was necessary for income to survive, she said, and helped paved the way for better lives and opportunities for Black people in the years that followed.

“The city spent $1.9 million to restore the Reed House,” she said referencing another historic landmark. “You can’t erase the history. I believe the city thinks that if we get rid of the cabin we erase the history.”

Norton told the AJC that one of the best ways to honor Williams’ legacy is through the city’s racial trust building initiative that was launched last year to start a dialogue on race.

“I don’t think that building is the way to do that,” he said, adding that all parties agree that Williams should be memorialized. “This is not some cancel culture moment trying to erase our history.”

A significant memorial already dedicated to Williams is displayed next door to the cabin site at the Smyrna History Museum.

“She is the most profound persona in the museum with a huge picture and a long description of her role in the community,” Councilman Lewis Wheaton said. “And we want to do more. We just don’t want to do a half million dollar renovation.”