Oakland Cemetery outside of Atlanta, Georgia is often considered to be the state’s most beautiful cemetery. While the unique grave markers often belong to notable local celebrities, political figures, and war heroes, everyone from the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich can be found here. From famous author of Gone With The Wind Margaret Mitchell to the first black mayor of Atlanta, you never know who you’ll find here.
Perhaps more notable is the breathtaking variety of monuments to the deceased that crowd every corner of the cemetery, dating from the 1850s to today. It’s no wonder Atlanta’s oldest public park has been so carefully preserved, since the winding trails, beautiful oak canopy, and fascinating graves create an immersive atmosphere entirely different from that of nearby Downtown.
The cemetery has a long history of functioning as a reprieve from the city, even hosting live music events. If Piedmont Park is Atlanta’s backyard, Oakland is its garden.
One of the first things you may notice after walking through the main entrance to Oakland Cemetery is the face of Dr James Nissen staring back at you from atop his Mausoleum. He commissioned this statue so that in death he could watch visitors entering the cemetery where he would be buried.
This one crowded section of stone monuments was devoted to Jews. Many of the markers bear writing in Hebrew and religious symbols.
While most of the truly impressive monuments bear the names of Atlanta’s most rich and influential residents, people of all incomes and backgrounds are buried here. However, many graves featured wooden markers which decayed over time. An area I didn’t photograph called the Potter’s Field is almost devoid of surviving grave markers but is home to around 7500 graves.
Even with Oakland’s substantial budget for maintenance and preservation, lots of areas still need attention. For instance, this grave and its tombstone has been uprooted by a conniving tree which also took out the granite walls. They just can’t give every single grave the attention it deserves so some will have wait their turn. Preservation efforts are always ongoing but nature never stops trying to take over the burial plots.
One remarkable building on the site is the women’s rest station, now turned into a small museum. The men’s rest station on the other side of cemetery is still derelict. Public restrooms in a public park would have been considered unthinkable luxury when they were first built.
The greenhouse attached to this maintenance shed was filled with plants of all kinds.
Sadly it was closed due to COVID. This section was even more beautifully manicured than the rest of Oakland’s superb landscaping.
You know you have to be rich to have your mausoleum intricately carved to resemble a church. Not to mention the prominent corner spot.
I particularly like this shot, though it calls attention to how many grave markers have been absorbed by the landscaping.
I would highly recommend checking out Oakland if you are ever in Atlanta. It’s a beautifully landscaped historically significant park that feels entirely unlike any other cemetery I’ve ever visited.
If you want to learn more about Oakland Cemetery, their website is a fascinating place to spend a few minutes.