ATLVault: Oakland Cemetery is where Atlanta’s history is woven together

Oakland Cemetery cemetery welcomes 105,000 visitors a year.
ATLVault: Oakland Cemetery is where Atlanta's history is woven together
Published: Feb. 27, 2023 at 9:18 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 27, 2023 at 10:39 AM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Early city officials purchased six acres in 1850 to be a public burial ground for a young-but-fast-growing town of Atlanta.

Originally called Atlanta Graveyard or City Burial Place, this was the beginning of Oakland Cemetery.

It was officially renamed in 1872. By then it had expanded to 48 acres, mainly due to pressures of the Civil War. In the late 19th century, families tended the plots of loved ones, creating an assortment of lovely gardens. Oakland became a popular destination for Sunday carriage rides and picnics.

As the 20th century unfolded, Oakland increasingly was surrounded by residential and industrial development. With the passage of time, many graves went unattended as descendants moved away or lost touch with their antecedents. After years of deferred maintenance and budgetary shortfalls, Oakland became a deteriorating landscape of weed-choked lots and neglected monuments.

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In 1976, Oakland Cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and experienced a renewal of interest and attention from “friends” that would eventually take over much of the restoration and maintenance of the cemetery and become the Historic Oakland Foundation.

Through restoration projects, fundraising, willpower, and imagination, Oakland Cemetery and its stories have been saved from obscurity. Today, the cemetery welcomes 105,000 visitors a year who stroll the grounds, attend a tour or special event, and come to learn about Atlanta’s rich history.