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Demolition of historical Aunt Fanny’s Cabin because of racist past recommended

<i>WGCL</i><br/>A task forces has decided to recommend the demolition of the former Aunt Fanny's Cabin
A task forces has decided to recommend the demolition of the former Aunt Fanny's Cabin

By Haley Mason

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    SMYRNA, Georgia (WGCL) — The old Aunt Fanny’s Cabin restaurant in Smyrna is in disrepair and considered by the city an unsafe structure.

In April, the City of Smyrna’s Chief Building Official drafted a memo stating the building needs to be either demolished or restored. Monday afternoon, a special task force moved to recommend to the Smyrna City council that the building be demolished.

Restoration would cost the city more than an estimated $500,000. Demolition would cost around $400,000.

The decision was rooted not only finances, but ethics. They’re recommending destroying the building that many consider a symbol of a racist past in the county. The restaurant once operated as an ode to the Antebellum South. After closing, the old restaurant most recently served as part of the city’s welcome center and a small events venue under the name, “Aunt Fanny’s Cabin.”

Lewis Wheaton, who is the only Black member of Smyrna’s City Council, brought an image of an old placemat from the restaurant to the meeting. The image depicts Black boys in black face paint serving Southern foods. Wheaton explained the image symbolizes the manner in which real-life Black male servers were asked to sing songs of the Confederacy and dance on the restaurants tables as they served food with wooden trays on their necks.

“It’s heartbreaking to me to think about this facility that had young boys the ages of my own sons who were dancing on tables with boards around their heads selling fried chicken and collard greens,” Wheaton told CBS46. “Is that what we want as a city moving forward or do we want to better tell the story of Fanny Williams?”

The old restaurant was named after Fanny Williams, a former worker for a local family that owned the business. Williams also participated in activism efforts for the Black community. The restaurant did not reflect those realities, but upheld racially offensive stereotypes—the task force largely agreed.

“For it to be this memorial to the way things were at that era and certainly the theme of the restaurant I think by and large is offensive to most folks today and I think called a lot of questions by most folks in the 90s,” said Councilmember Travis Lindley, the only Smyrna native on the committee. He says he remembers the restaurant in the 80s and also voted to demolish the structure.

“I hope it’s in no way a reflection on our community,” Lindley told CBS46.

The task force will recommend the city find a better way to honor Williams when it presents its decision later this week. The council will take the matter up for a vote early next year.

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