Georgia city to demolish “Old South” restaurant

SMYRNA, Ga (AP) – A town in Georgia is a big step towards removing a replica of a well-known restaurant that served Southern fare and attracted celebrities, but also used racist imagery to evoke the South before the Civil War.

A task force in suburban Atlanta, Smyrna, last week recommended that Aunt Fanny’s cabin be put into a state of demolition unless a group shows up to remove it from city property, reported the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Only the log cabin and fireplace should be kept as a monument to Fanny Williams, the restaurant’s namesake, the task force said.

The recommendation now goes to Smyrna City Council, which could make a final decision next month.

The now defunct restaurant became a well-known dining destination by the mid-1900s. Guests included sports icons Jack Dempsey and Ty Cobb and Hollywood star Doris Day. Former President Jimmy Carter stopped by the cabin during his campaigns.

But it also adopted an “Old South” decor and theme that has been adopted by other restaurants, AJC previously reported.

According to reports, black youths hired as waiters wore wooden menu boards around their necks and danced on tables, and the walls had framed advertisements for slaves. Williams sat on the porch, clad in a faded dress and scarf, telling clients about her days as a slave, although she was never a slave, according to AJC.

A statement posted last week on the City of Smyrna website lambasted “the caricature and overt indignity of the theme of the establishment which was Aunt Fanny’s cabin.”

“We wish to honor Fanny Williams and not the racist theme and myths of the old establishment and others similar, popular and profitable in post-WWII Atlanta,” the statement said. “Although sometimes seen in more glowing terms by an almost exclusively white patronage with fond memories of ‘good food’ and a ‘family atmosphere’, these establishments are symbols and feelings of an era that neither represents nor does it. ‘honors the dignity of all, and certainly does not represent our community.

The statement said Williams – a civil rights activist who helped raise funds for a black hospital – was exploited in the restaurant’s “social and marketing myths”.

The restaurant closed in 1992 and most of the structure was later dismantled or demolished. But Smyrna bought the porch and a room near the entrance and added them to a replica of the hut that was built at the town’s visitor center.

The site was recently closed due to structural issues and could cost $ 550,000 to repair, according to AJC.

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