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Oakland Cemetery In Atlanta, GA Possesses An Aesthetically Pleasing Feel Not Seen In The Common Cemetery.

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Redefining Modern Burial Grounds: Oakland Cemetery

Victorian Style Gardens And Greek Revival & Neo-Classical Art And Architecture Bless This Atlanta Cemetery Home To Many Famous Georgians 

Oakland Cemetery In Front Of Atlanta Skyline [Photo Credit: David Kosmos Smith]

Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, GA is a stunning example of a rural Victorian garden.  The cemetery is acres of winding paths, large shade trees, flowers, and shrubs, and amazing architecture. Passing by Oakland’s plain brick front gate, it is hard to imagine such beauty lies within the walls.

Even though Oakland is a public park, many local Georgians have never heard of it. Oakland is located on Memorial Drive on the southside of Atlanta, not exactly an ideal location of a historic park.  Executive director, David Moore says, “people still don’t understand that they can come in here and engage in the history that is here.” Many passersby see it has a historic site that is off limits to the average citizen.

Unlike modern cemeteries where people are interred in seas of perfect lawns, Oakland was designed to have a “park” feel. Oakland began as a public burial ground in 1850. It was constructed to be aesthetically pleasing and evolved into a rural Victorian style garden. As citizens buried their loved ones, they planted many flowering perennials, trees and shrubs so that when they visited, the area would be nice. As the Civil War ended, Oakland became a popular destination for Sunday carriage rides and picnics. Families continued to create an assortment of lovely gardens while tending the plots of loved ones.

Walkway Inside Oakland Surrounded By Lively Vegetation [Photo Credit: Debbie Wolfe]
Oakland Cemetery Bell Tower In Atlanta, GA [Photo Credit: Ren Davis]

“Most individuals are surprised when they visit Oakland.” says David, “It’s not what they thought it would look like.” Instead of row after row of tomb stones or plain stone mausoleums, the burial plots are hidden behind plumes of hydrangeas, clusters of lilies or weeping cyprus. “You don’t think of it as a cemetery, it’s just a beautiful place,” says David. “It is a place of serenity, a place of history, a place of unique art,” continues David, “all the sudden you get it. When you walk through the gate your blood pressure drops, you’re out of the city, and you’re transformed into another time and another state of mind. It’s part of the wow factor when someone visits.”

And then there’s the architecture and statues. Oakland is full of Victorian, Greek Revival, Gothic, Neo-classical, Egyptian and Exotic Revival art and architecture, as well as, several mausoleums which feature stained glass windows from Tiffany Studios. The statues range from avenging angel figures to carved likeness of the people who are buried there.  No matter what time of year it is, Oakland has something of interest to see—it is a photographer’s dream.

David explains that local foot traffic is starting to increase. “There’s a dramatic revitalization that is occurring up and down Memorial Drive that will generate thousands of more people that will want to walk outside to enjoy the 48 acres of a historic Atlanta park,” he says. That traffic increases substantially during many of the events hosted by Oakland every year. The most popular is the Capturing the Spirit of Halloween Tour. David says, “six thousand people come through here over the course of six nights to listen to the stories of individuals and families that helped shape Atlanta in an interactive, story-telling way.” The event is not for telling ghost stories, “It’s designed to enlighten and not frighten,” says David. Costumed storytellers guide guests through the cemetery’s beautifully-lit Victorian gardens as they experience the stories of Atlanta’s sons and daughters come to life.

Entrance Gate Of Oakland Cemetery [Courtesy/Oakland Cemetery]
Statue Art Inside The Vibrant Oakland Cemetery [Photo Credit: John Meeks]
Row Of Nicely Designed Tombstones In Oakland [Photo Credit: Tracy Shaw]

In addition to the many events at Oakland, the cemetery park is home to 70 thousand residents. Many famous Georgians are buried here.  Oakland is home to 27 mayors, six governors, five Confederate generals, and many prominent people that helped shape Georgia. There are also 3,000 unmarked Confederate graves and approximately 7,500 paupers, or people who could not afford to be interred on a private lot. David says, “the two most visited celebrity graves are Margaret Mitchell and Bobby Jones.” Margaret Mitchell was the author of Gone with the Wind, and Robert T. (Bobby) Jones is a Southern golf legend.

Parking is free at Oakland and the lot can accommodate large vehicles, busses and RVs. Park hours are from 8 am to 8 pm year-round. There are extended hours during special events throughout the year. Bring a picnic lunch, walk your dog, or explore a little history in Atlanta at Oakland.


Debbie Wolfe 

A graduate of Northland College with degrees in Creative Writing and Earth Sciences, Debbie has written for HGTV, DIYNetwork, Sheknows and more. She enjoys gardening, reading and fostering dogs. 


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