“It don’t remind me of nothing but racism,” said Roderick McNeal, who worked at Aunt Fanny’s in the summer of 1959. “It’s an old racist’s house, and it’s past time for it to go.”

Lisa Castleberry, who worked there in the 1970s, said that simply passing by the now-vacant building regularly reminds her of a painful time in Smyrna’s history.

“Now that I’m older, I’m like, ‘Oh man, that was so degrading,’ but it was a job,” said Ms. Castleberry, who is 61.

Ms. Castleberry, who is Black, said that although segregation was officially over by the time she worked there, she and her family, friends and neighbors never felt comfortable going to Aunt Fanny’s.

Other former employees had fonder memories.

“Even if it was based on slave times, no one treated us like slaves, and it is a part of history,” said Jo Ann Trimble, who worked at Aunt Fanny’s for 19 years. “I’ll be 75 this year and I’ve done every kind of job, and that is the only job I’ve ever loved.”

Ms. Trimble supported her children with her salary and tips from Aunt Fanny’s. Her sisters, children, aunts and cousins all worked there too at different points. The fact that the restaurant helped many Black Smyrna residents build their lives is reason enough to save the building, she said, even if it makes people uncomfortable.

Smyrna, a city of about 56,000 people, is about 46 percent white and 33 percent Black. In 2017, Ms. Blackburn became the first and only Black woman to sit on the City Council. She and others working to save Aunt Fanny’s said that the project presented the community with an opportunity to confront the racism that existed within it while also honoring a Black woman who helped build her community.

More than 70 years after her death in 1949, very little is actually known about Fanny Williams beyond her role as the restaurant’s namesake and cook. Local researchers believe she made financial contributions to African Americans in the region, donating to Wheat Street Baptist Church, an African-American church in Atlanta, and raising money for Marietta’s first Black hospital.

Activists are working to locate Ms. Williams’s grave in the city’s South View Cemetery. They have plans to tell her story at schools and are holding a design competition to reimagine the cabin.

Turning the building into a welcome center, a museum or culinary school for Southern food, supporters said, would be a way to honor her.

“We have no standing structure that honors our history in Smyrna,” said Shaun Martin, an architect who is Black and has been studying the cabin for years. “Aunt Fanny’s Cabin could be a place where all of Black Smyrnites could be celebrated in a space that is reclaimed to give us the dignity that they stole from us for decades.”

Members of the City Council and other residents who wanted the building gone said that the city could memorialize Ms. Williams in other ways.

“Why don’t we honor her by putting a picture of her in a museum? We can teach kids about her or build a statue,” said Bernice Livsey, a resident who is Black. “Anything’s better than keeping this little house and saying it’s to honor her.”

The restaurant was originally created as a store by Isoline Campbell McKenna, the daughter of a wealthy white family for whom Ms. Williams worked. It changed hands over the years — outliving Ms. Williams by four decades — and hasn’t been operated as a restaurant since 1992. The building has been in the city’s possession since 1997, when the government saved it from being torn down by developers. In recent months, it has been cordoned off with yellow caution tape, deemed unsafe by the city.

In December, city officials said the building would be destroyed if no one came forward with a proposal and the money to move it. Last week, the City Council accepted an offer from the owners of a nearby cattle farm to move the cabin there and to honor Ms. Williams with a plaque.

Ms. Castleberry said that while she had hoped the building would be demolished, she was relieved that it would be moved from the city and she and others would not have to see it daily.

For those who wanted to preserve the building but also keep it in Smyrna, the outcome was only a partial victory. Susan Wilkinson, a City Council member who is white, said the community had only begun to learn about Ms. Williams and the value of educating residents about her legacy.

At a recent council meeting, Ms. Wilkinson argued that that mission would now be more difficult. “How do we preserve history when the physical space is no longer there?”

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