Oakland Cemetery serves as one of the key landmarks of antebellum Atlanta, Georgia. Oakland Cemetery sits in stark contrast to the rest of the city with its towering trees, rather than towering building, and its old brick roads rather than hot black asphalt. Oakland Cemetery serves as a monument to Georgia’s past while simultaneously growing and morphing with the present. It is general knowledge that some of the city’s most influential characters, such as Margaret Mitchell and Bobby Jones, lay at rest within its walls and it is the oldest cemetery in Atlanta. However, who in the city knows about the erection of the eastern wall or the problems that had to be handled in Oakland’s early years? A great deal of Oakland’s history remains a mystery to the people of Atlanta and throughout this analysis I will shed light on its origin story.
Oakland Cemetery began its existence in Atlanta in the year 1850. It was a six lot plot of land purchased from Alfred W. Wooding, a local Atlantian who owned the farmland, for seventy-five dollars an acre. This small six-acre mass of land became “Atlanta Cemetery”. The first body buried on the land was Wooding’s wife, whom Wooding buried prior to the purchase. Still, the Atlanta Cemetery of 1850 was very different from what we now know as the immense historic Oakland Cemetery today. The cemetery would grow regularly over the late 1800s, first expanding in 1857 then again in 1864, 1866, and 1867. In 1859, the mayor of Atlanta, Luther J. Glenn, stated that the cemetery was in poor condition, vandalized and in need of immediate action. In the next year, the cemetery would help to earn revenue by selling six plots of its larger capacity to the Hebrew Benevolent Society. The founding of the society was in that year to help get land for Jewish burials and showed a solidarity among Jews before the Civil War. It would not be long after this that the cemetery would begin many actions that would increase the appeal of Oakland Cemetery and make it one of the nicest cemeteries in the South. 
Post-Civil War was a hard time for the city of Atlanta but it gave great benefit to the Oakland Cemetery. After the death of many Confederate soldiers, a large section of the cemetery was committed to being a Civil War graveyard and memorial. The city of Atlanta and its people held the Confederate graveyard in high esteem directly after the war, and they make this clear in the way that the city represented it at Oakland. On June 1, 1869, an article in The Constitution advertised for an exhibition at the Confederate burial ground at Oakland Cemetery. The cemetery committee hired a sexton to oversee the whole of the cemetery, but “he has been directed to give especial superintendence, in connection with his other duties, to that part of the Cemetery where our Confederate dead are buried.” It should come as no surprise that by 1873 the city had the Confederate Obelisk built on the grounds. The monument was set to be sixty feet tall and carved out of Stone Mountain granite. On the granite tablet in front of the Obelisk the engraving reads, “’OUR CONFEDERATE DEAD’ 1873”. This monument still stands and serves as a historical monument to the confederate soldiers who died during the Civil War.
The entirety of Oakland Cemetery was not devoted to the Confederate soldiers but served as a resting place to many of the people of Atlanta. The city began to take precautions to preserve the land and bring it from its lower state in the 1860s. One of the earlier fixes noted in the May 8, 1873 paper is the presence of a newly erected picket fence around most of the cemetery. In addition to this was the planting of flowers and creating of walkways that weaved in and out of the burial plots like serpents. The paper speaks highly of these additions, believing that how a city treats its dead speaks to their level of refinement and saying, “we think our citizens may well feel a. . . gratification in view of the manner in which they have cared for their ‘city of the dead’”.
Sexton John Connolly, the caretaker of the cemetery at the time, made another addition to Oakland Cemetery by adding hothouses to the grounds. These hothouses were heated areas to keep the families’ plants safe during the winter months. The first hothouse began construction in 1872 but the sexton considered it to be too small. On October 31, 1873, a second hothouse was built that was three-hundred percent larger. The new hothouse was not only a great deal larger but heated by a furnace rather than the simple stove that heated its predecessor. Though these hothouses would later result in the termination of a later sexton, the construction of both hothouses was seen as a positive addition to the park. The Atlanta Constitution stated that, “the cost of the building of both have been small in comparison with their usefulness.” These hothouses would eventually fall into disrepair in the 1970s but thanks to the donation by the Buckhead Men’s Garden Club the cemetery reinstated them in a new form in 2015.
As Oakland Cemetery grew, it seemed that new additions were being made constantly. The Daily Constitution made note in their March 30, 1878 addition that, “new iron railings, stone walls and pretty enclosures of various kinds are constantly appearing”. It seems by the way that the newspapers write about Oakland Cemetery that as it developed and grew, it became more than just a place to bury the dead but began to be more like a park for the city. The sexton had flowers and shrubbery placed along the walkways and rolling hills to give a beauty and happiness to an area that typically seemed gloomy. The cemetery became a place where all of families desired to bury their dead. Not in a place where death looms in the grounds but one full of flowers and grasses. Still, despite all of the natural and constructed beauty of the cemetery, problems still existed within its walls, or lack thereof, for the families and sexton.
Though the previous Constitution piece wrote about the magnificent stone walls around the cemetery, those walls didn’t continue around the whole perimeter. Because of this fact, certain problems arose for the sexton and his cemetery. On July 10, 1892, The Atlanta Constitution ran an article speaking about the fact that the eastern section of the cemetery had no barrier between its ground and the land it butted against. This lack of wall led to a bovine infestation, along with various other creatures, of the eastern section of the cemetery. The bovine infestation made the council quickly act to rectify the situation formulating the plans for a fence with an underlying solid wall to combat the intruding animals. As an addition to the building of the wall, the company that won the bid was also employed to fill all of the ditches that had become an issue in that area of the cemetery.
As Memorial Day 1895 approached, the cemetery was once again under the watchful eye of the city. The New sexton, T. A. Clayton, who succeeded John Connolly after his death in 1874, was determined to meet its demands. Clayton meticulously rid the cemetery of any stray flowers or bushes and made sure all of the plots were trimmed and cleaned. Under his guidance, nearly all of the roads were cherted – paved primarily from the sedimentary rock chert – and prepared for the visitors on Memorial Day. The Atlanta Constitution even gave praise to their holiday preparations with the statement, “never before on Memorial Day has that plat of ground in which rest the brave men of the south been more attractive or better suited for the reception of the great banks of flowers that will be then strewn.”
The final major addition to the cemetery in the 19th century began in April of 1899 when the bid for building what is now the visitor’s center was won. The Atlanta Building Company won the bid set out by the city council for $4,600. This company would construct the building out of solid stone and iron and design it after the English and Norman castellated churches. The design was a Romanesque-Revival structure with two stories and arched openings. Of the two stories, the bottom served the ladies and visitors while also containing fifteen containers for the bodies that had yet to be interred. Stuccoed brick and marble formed the interior walls of the monument. Finally, the building design boasted a fifty-foot high tower that would overlook the cemetery grounds. Construction of the building began on April 27, 1899 and served as the last addition to Oakland Cemetery before the turn of the century.
Oakland Cemetery has a long and complicated past in Atlanta. It was once a segregated burial facility and still to this day holds a memorial for the fallen Confederate soldiers. It started as a small six-acre plot bought from a citizen and has become one of the most beautiful landmarks in all of Atlanta. The city has built and redesigned this cemetery in countless ways over the years to reach the state it is in now. Many of these major changes in the cemetery came within its first fifty years of development when it went from just a small grassy knoll to the cemetery it is now. It has had large walls constructed around it and towering monuments built within in. It has been carefully landscaped and designed over the years to become a place not of sadness and gloom but one of serene beauty. Oakland Cemetery exists in a way that is so greatly different from the rest of Atlanta and because of this, it is an ideal place to coexist both in the past and the present, among the living and the dead of Atlanta, Georgia.
 “Historic Growth.” Digital image. Oaklandcemetery.com. Accessed April 27, 2016. http://www.oaklandcemetery.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/HistoricGrowth.pdf.
 Grigsby Hart Wotton Jr, “New City of the South: Atlanta. 1843-1873” Ann Arbor: University Microfilms, 1974: 57; Ren Davis and Helen Davis, Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery: An Illustrated History and Guide. University of Georgia Press, 2012: 4-6
 “The Ames Exhibit and the Confederate Cemetery”, The Constitution (June 1 1869): 1
 “Oakland Cemetery: Our Confederate Dead. 1873”, The Atlanta Constitution (Dec 14, 1873): 8
 “Oakland Cemetery” The Daily Sun (May 8, 1873): 4
 “Oakland Cemetery: The Green Houses”, The Atlanta Constitution (October 31, 1873): 3; “Greenhouse.” Oakland Cemetery. Accessed April 17, 2016. http://www.oaklandcemetery.com/projects/greenhouse/.
 “The Cemetery: Its Improved Appearance”, The Daily Constitution (March 30, 1878): 4
 “Oakland Cemetery”, The Daily Constitution (April 11, 1878): 4
 “A Fence for the Cemetery”, The Atlanta Constitution (July 10, 1892): 5
 “Funeral of John Connolly”, The Atlanta Constitution (August 27, 1874): 3
 “Work at Oakland”, The Atlanta Constitution (April 20, 1895): 7
 “The New Building to be Erected at Oakland Cemetery”, The Atlanta Constitution (April 14, 1899): 7; United States of America. United States Department of the Interior. National Park Service. The National Register of Historic Places:. Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of the Interior, 1976. Accessed April 27, 2016. http://focus.nps.gov/pdfhost/docs/nrhp/text/76000627.pdf.