Smyrna issues statement condemning ‘racist theme’ of Aunt Fanny’s Cabin as city moves toward demolition

Vintage photo of Aunt Fanny’s Cabin. Smyrna city leaders issued a letter detailing plans for the former restaurant. (AJC file)

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Vintage photo of Aunt Fanny’s Cabin. Smyrna city leaders issued a letter detailing plans for the former restaurant. (AJC file)

Smyrna bid a not-so fond farewell to Aunt Fanny’s Cabin, the once famed restaurant that welcomed droves of diners over the years — including the rich and famous.

The iconic “Old South” eatery has been a source of recent controversy. City officials were forced to grapple with the restaurant’s complicated racial history as they decided whether to preserve Aunt Fanny’s Cabin, rebuild it or tear it down for good.

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

In the end, it’s painstakingly clear the cabin will not remain in the city’s hands for much longer. A task force of council members, citizens and a researcher who studied Aunt Fanny’s history unanimously agreed last week to put the cabin up for demolition if no organization steps up to remove it from city property. The task force recommended the cabin’s fireplace and chimney be preserved to be used as a monument to Fanny Williams, the Black woman after whom Aunt Fanny’s Cabin was named. Williams was a pioneering Civil Rights activist and beloved figure in Cobb County before she died in 1949.

On Thursday, a committee of the mayor, the full council and several top department heads agreed it was time for the remnants of the restaurant to go. Afterward, the city issued an impassioned statement detailing the next steps in the process and spelling out the reasoning behind the city’s decision.

“We wish to honor Fanny Williams and not the racist theme and myths of the former establishment and others like it, popular and profitable in post WWII Atlanta,” the statement read. “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.”

Smyrna’s City Council will vote, likely next month, on the task force’s recommendation to demolish. If councilmembers uphold the panel’s decision and no outside organizations agree to relocate the cabin, it would seal the fate of Aunt Fanny’s Cabin, which celebrated its 70th anniversary this month.

ExplorePanel votes to demolish Aunt Fanny’s Cabin, famed ‘Old South’ restaurant in Smyrna

The building, situated at Smyrna’s welcome center along Atlanta Road, is a replica of the original Aunt Fanny’s Cabin, which operated for more than 50 years on Campbell Road. The current version, which includes the front porch and entryway from the original structure, is owned by Smyrna’s Parks and Recreations Department.

It had been used for small events before the city’s chief building inspector condemned the aging facility in April, deeming it unsafe and uninhabitable. It would’ve cost more than $500,000 to rehab the old building, according to one contractor’s estimate. The cost to demolish will be about $56,000.

City officials said some local historical societies have inquired about becoming keepers of Aunt Fanny’s Cabin. Any groups interested in taking over the building and moving it to off city property can contact Kelly Brown, Smyrna’s purchasing manager, at 678-631-5406 or email her at kbrown@smyrnaga.gov.