Oakland Cemetery – Another Atlanta Treasure


Continuing our tour of Atlanta treasures, today we’ll visit Oakland Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in Atlanta and one of the largest green spaces in the city.

by Eoghanacht via wikimedia commons

It was founded in 1850 and expanded through the years to become the final resting place of many famous Atlantans including Margaret Mitchell, Bobby Jones, numerous mayors, governors and civic leaders, as well as soldiers, common men and women, and even paupers.

Originally called Atlanta Cemetery and renamed Oakland in 1872, it was separated into the Confederate Section, the Jewish Section, the Black Section, and Potter’s Field. Obviously now, anyone can be buried wherever they purchase a plot. While the last sites were sold in 1884, sometimes families do sell spaces. A list of people wishing to purchase plots is maintained by the Sexton.

by J. Glover via wikimedia commons

At this time it is estimated that more than 70,000 people are buried at Oakland, although many markers have disintegrated and some plots contain only family monuments rather than individual markers.

Oakland is a “garden cemetery,” featuring winding paths, large trees, flowers and shrubs. There are also mausoleums with Tiffany stained glass, bronze urns over six feet high, and other extravagant monuments, reminders of times past.

Through the 19th Century, Oakland enjoyed popularity as a destination for family outings. In the early 20th Century, the city grew to surround the area and many families moved further out, leaving the graves of their loved ones to fall into disrepair.

by Mike Schinkel via wikimedia commons

In 1976, Oakland was added to the National Register of Historic Places and the Historic Oakland Foundation was established. Since then, much has been done to restore and revive the beauty that is Oakland.

The wall that surrounds the current cemetery has been rebuilt and much of the damage resulting from the 2008 tornado which hit the downtown Atlanta area has been repaired.

Various tours are available throughout the year. March is a very busy time at Oakland. Oakland Cemetery Daffodil Day is March 21 from 10am to 2pm. There will be displays and presentations as well as garden walks and some historic daffodil varieties available for sale.

by J. Glover via wikimedia commons

There’s also the Sights, Symbols & Stories of Oakland March 21 – 22, from 10am to 4pm where you get a great sample of the history, art, architecture and personal stories of Oakland’s current residents.

March 28, there is a tour featuring African-American History at Oakland. You’ll learn about many famous Atlantans including Mayor Maynard Jackson, Bishop Wesley John Gaines (founder of Morris Brown College), Carrie Steele Logan (established the first black orphanage in Atlanta) and others.

March 29, the tour is called Fear and Accusation: The Leo Frank Story. This tour details the history of the 1913 murder and subsequent trial that play an important role in Atlanta’s history.

March 21, the tour is Pioneers of Atlanta: The first 20 years, where you’ll hear stories about the first farmers, lawyers, mayors and other people that settled the town then known as Terminus.

by Barret Socker via wikimedia commons

March 22, it’s Odd Fellows, Red Men, Masons and more…Fraternal Organizations at Oakland. It traces the history of fraternal organizations, some of which are still in existence today.

And starting on April 25, Oakland’s Boys of Summer Baseball Tour celebrates the first baseball game in Atlanta, when the Gate City Nine and the Atlanta Baseball Club played a game on May 12, 1866 to take the city’s residents’ minds off of war and smallpox. You’ll learn about the lives of several of the players who played in that historic game.

There are many other tours and events at Oakland. So whether you want to just wander around the monuments (that’s free), or take a Guided Overview Tour, Saturdays and Sundays beginning this month (tickets available at the Visitors Center), or take one of the Special Topic Tours we’ve mentioned above (tickets available at the Visitors Center), it’s a lovely way to spend a spring morning or afternoon. History has never been more beautiful!

Next: East Lake Golf Club, Another Atlanta Treasure

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