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Atlanta and Oakland Cemetery: Generations of Care

Oakland has always been cared for by Atlantans. The city’s first cemetery was established in its current location, away from the hustle and bustle of the growing city, so that the city’s early families would have a place to lay their loved ones to rest. In its earliest days, many of the city’s citizens cared for their families’ gravesites and saw Oakland, the city’s oldest greenspace, as a place for leisure and recreation even before the vast tree canopy and parkland we know today were established.

Over time, the way that Atlantans have cared for Oakland has changed. In the first half of the twentieth century, more and more families moved away, and their connection with family lots dwindled. As a result, Oakland increasingly went neglected, and by the middle of the twentieth century, Oakland and its surrounding neighborhoods had fallen on hard times. In 1976, A group of Atlantans stepped in to care for Oakland by establishing Historic Oakland Foundation. With no long-term endowment or “perpetual care” fund established to provide for the Cemetery’s hallowed 48 acres, these dedicated supporters marshaled energy, support, and funds for the preservation of the place historian Franklin Garret once called “Atlanta’s most tangible link to the past.”

2008 Tornado damage at Oakland

Whenever Oakland has needed help, its city, friends, and supporters have risen to the occasion. The morning after a tornado ripped through the Cemetery in 2008, hundreds of neighbors stood outside the gates, eager to help with the recovery effort. Every time Historic Oakland Foundation has identified a piece of Oakland’s history that is acutely at-risk after facing the ravages of time and mother nature, the Cemetery’s supporters have stepped up in significant ways.

We are fortunate to be an organization with diverse funding sources, including individual donations, memberships, foundation grants, plant sales, special events, tours and programs, private rentals, and the Visitors Center. Each of these sources is critical to our ability to conduct our mission to preserve, restore, enhance, and share Oakland Cemetery for all of our visitors, whether they’re interested in history, nature and gardens, leisure and recreation, or simply enjoy Oakland as a place of peace and solace.

“Oakland is a treasure that needs preserving.”

We’re all cautiously navigating the changing landscape of the current crisis, and while we certainly don’t feel like we’re out of the woods yet, we feel heartened that we can face whatever challenges await because of our vast base of support. In recent weeks, we’ve seen many of you practicing social distancing and using Oakland as a place of respite from the anxiety caused by the current crisis. We are so glad to be able to provide that. In the coming weeks, you’ll see from us even more ways to connect with Oakland. We will work towards re-opening our programming, observing city, state, and federal recommendations and guidelines and keeping the safety of our visitors, volunteers, and staff at the center of our thinking. You’ll see a modified Spring Plant Sale, a downloadable Summer Scramble Scavenger Hunt, and a stack of digital content created to help you explore Oakland while adhering to social distancing guidelines.

Upon renewing their membership, one Foundation member recently said, “Oakland is a treasure that needs preserving.” We couldn’t agree more. Today, Oakland remains beloved by the city of Atlanta and is in the safe hands of another generation who treasures the city’s oldest greenspace, most distinct park, and special historic site. We are so grateful to the many caring supporters who have helped the Foundation in the last few months as we navigate the uncertainty and challenges created by this unprecedented global pandemic.


We look forward to seeing you soon.

Richard Harker and David Moore
Co-Executive Directors

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