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[photo] Grave markers of Oakland Cemetery
National Register photograph by Yen Tang

Oakland Cemetery is an 48-acre hilly area in the southeastern section of Atlanta which contains the city's oldest extant burial grounds. Among the approximately 70,000 interred at Oakland are: the unmarked graves of paupers, Confederate and Union soldiers, a Jewish section, an African American section, a number of former Atlanta mayors, six former governors, prominent Atlantans including Gone with the Wind author Margaret Mitchell Marsh and golf great Bobby Jones. The cemetery was established in 1850. A brick wall enclosing the cemetery with a pattern of brick pilasters, recessed panels and corbels was built in 1896. With 50 miles of brick streets and walkways, the grounds of the cemetery are an expression of the 19th-century landscape ideal of a cemetery-park and provide a luxuriant setting for its profusion of Victorian cemetery art.

Main entrance gate to Oakland Cemetery
Courtesy of the Atlanta Urban Design Commission

Three of the oldest sections of the cemetery were set aside for specific groups and have visually distinct environments. The Confederate section, occupying six acres of high ground, is marked by an 1873 obelisk and a monument to the unknown dead. The monument includes a wounded lion lying on a furled Confederate flag. The Jewish section, dating to 1860, is crowded with elaborate grave markers bearing inscriptions in both Hebrew and English. The black section of the cemetery is on the northern end on sloping ground that looks toward the historic east-side black community. The landscape here is less crowded and the markers generally less elaborately detailed.

The marble and granite gravestones throughout the cemetery range from simple, unadorned flat granite markers to grandly scaled obelisks and mausoleums. Both round and low-pitched arched stones with a variety of tympanum motifs dating from the mid-19th century are particularly prevalent. Markers in the shape of urns, occasionally displaying a common 18th-century motif of winged cherub or soul figure are used widely. Other notable and typically Victorian figure motifs found in the cemetery include a sleeping child or cherub in a shell, the weeping wife or mother bowed in grief with palm leaf or laurel wreath in hand, angel figures and the solemn classical figure who may be clinging to a cross. Widespread marker forms include anchors bound with rope, rough hewn rocks covered with ivy and lilies, tree trunks from which all limbs have been removed, crosses bedecked with flowers and portrait stones.

Oakland Cemetery is located at 248 Oakland Ave., NE, near the intersection of Boulevard St. and Memorial Dr. where Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. ends. The main entrance is located on Oakland St., off Memorial Ave. The Visitor's Center is located in the Bell Tower Building, and is open 9:00am to 5:00pm daily. Guided tours are available March-October, Saturdays at 10:00am and 2:00pm, and Sundays at 2:00pm (except holidays); there is a fee. Guide books are also available for self-guided tours. For further information please call 404-688-2107 or visit their website.

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