on March 20, 2008
Oakland Cemetery is Atlanta's celebrated historic cemetery. Founded in 1850, the cemetery traces the history of the city and is a great example of Atlanta's culture. The cemetery is a National Historic Site that is watched over by the Historic Oakland Foundation. A public cemetery, the graves are owned by family members and not cared for like in a perpetual care cemetery. Burial records were not even kept by the cemetery until a survey was done in the 1930s by Franklin Garrett. Because of this, the identities of those buried in the cemetery are often unknown, lost to the weathering, loss of, or damage to tomb stones.The cemetery is located just off I-85 on Memorial Drive, near Zoo Atlanta and is considered a tourist and historical attraction. There are no parking-lots. Much like any other cemetery, visitors must simply pull off the road if possibly, trying to leave enough room for other cars to pass. This can be very difficult in some parts of the cemetery, where all graves are elevated and gutters line the road. I'd recommend parking by the visitor's center or farther back into the cemetery, when the roads widen. As you explore, watch your step. Over the last hundred and 60 years the cemetery has been shaped by nature, with tree roots pushing up cobblestones and causing tripping hazards. Visitors should first go to the Visitors Center, which is ran by the Historic Oakland Foundation. Here visitors will find friendly volunteers who can provide all the information any visitor might need. Special offers provided by the Historic Oakland Foundation include guided tours in the spring, summer and fall ($10 or less) and lectures ($15), as well as special seasonal events.Even without going to the visitors center, anyone can stroll the cemetery and see the sights. Many famous burials, such as Bobby Jones and Margaret Mitchell, are noted by directional signs. And it won't be hard for visitors to find the large monuments, such as the confederate memorials, as well as the large number of confederate burials. Family vaults and unique statues are scattered throughout the cemetery, especially near the front. There are two jewish sections, one old and one new, separated from each other as new land was purchased to extend the cemetery. Visitors will also notice that a large section of the cemetery seems to be an open field. This is potters field, where many poor white citizens and most black citizens were buried. In most cases, the identities of the individuals are lost forever.If you like history, Oakland Cemetery is a great place to discover a part of Atlanta's history. Though many think of cemeteries as spooky or creepy, I find this cemetery to be (like many others) peaceful and educational. It's a can't miss.
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