In the midst of the fast-paced, modern world of Atlanta, GA lies Oakland Cemetery – an unexpected island of stately trees, tranquil water features and a dazzling assortment of blooms. It was one of America’s first city parks and is now a 48-acre secret garden.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this tranquil oasis harkens back to a Victorian-era mindset when cemeteries were meant to be more than just a final resting place – they were thoughtfully-maintained gathering spots where families could enjoy an afternoon while remembering loved ones.
This place is a testament to the the resurrection power of vision. During the mid-20th century, Oakland Cemetery was largely forgotten and, by the early 1970s, had fallen into disrepair and neglect. The Historic Oakland Foundation was created with the belief that this spot was worth fighting for. Members spearheaded restoration in the 1980s and again following a devastating tornado which tore through the grounds in 2008.
There are over 70,000 people buried here, including Gone with the Wind author Margaret Mitchell, golf legend Bobby Jones and over 7,000 confederate soldiers. But there is new life here too. Oakland Cemetery is now the epicenter for a variety of community events from music festivals and public picnics to fun runs and historic tours.
The diversity of the plantlife intermingling with the terraced walls and peaceful walkways of Oakland Cemetery is a living reminder of the visitors throughout the decades who planted them here as an act of honor and remembrance. The vast collections are maintained by a dedicated group of volunteers who devote their time to keeping this place a welcoming respite from the hustle and bustle of life outside these walls.
This is a story of rebirth, and the value of preserving the hallmarks of our past.