|View of Bell Tower Ridge|
The first time I visited, years ago, all I knew about Atlanta’s oldest public cemetery was, Margaret Mitchell was buried there. Then I knew nothing about the rural cemetery movement, only that this was a beautiful place.
On my most recent trip to Atlanta, I had the privilege of touring Oakland Cemetery with members of the Historic Oakland Foundation, as they planned their annual Halloween tour. My lips are sealed about the tour, but I promise a fascinating experience for those who join it next October.
Still, Oakland is well worth a visit, no matter what.* In spring it’s simply glorious, with its flowering trees and shrubs and joyous birdsong. Though not originally planned as a rural cemetery, it is, like others I’ve visited, an oasis amid the city’s hubbub. It’s a park—a Certified Wildlife Habitat, in fact. This one, though, is filled with stories.
It’s the End of the Trail for Benjamin F. Perry, Jr. who designed the Buffalo Head nickel. Golfer Bobby Jones rests here, too. So does Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first African-American mayor, whose grave’s placement “would symbolize the final breaking of the color line within Oakland’s Original Six Acres.”
Along with politics and war are human stories, many told briefly but poignantly in epitaphs, as well as art, from grand monuments and mausoleums with beautiful stained glass to small, delicately carved stone markers.
All quotations are from Ren and Helen Davis’s Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery: An Illustrated History and Guide, a handsomely illustrated book offering exactly what the title promises: a detailed history as well as guide to the cemetery’s several “neighborhoods” (with maps), tales of those buried therein as well as that of the cemetery’s restoration.
*There are guided walking tours year round as well as special tours.
**Son of Joel Chandler Harris.