After more than four decades, historic Oakland Cemetery will once again have a functioning greenhouse, thanks to a fortuitous offer from the Buckhead Men’s Garden Club, the Atlanta History Center and other partners.
Atlanta Cyclorama’s impending move from Grant Park to the Atlanta History Center (AHC) campus required the Buckhead Men’s Garden Club (BMGC) to remove its greenhouse, which is currently located where Cyclorama will be housed. The BMGC offered the structure to Historic Oakland Foundation (HOF), in hopes that the cemetery could utilize it. In the event a new site couldn’t be found, the the 50-foot by 30-foot aluminum and tempered glass structure would be demolished.
With the help of AHC, the City of Atlanta Department of Parks & Recreation, the Urban Design Commission, Georgia State University, and other groups and private donors, Oakland Cemetery will relocate and reconstruct the greenhouse this summer.
Once erected, the greenhouse will serve a very important purpose at the cemetery. Primarily, gardens staff will no longer be limited to growing temperature-specific varieties of plants. Instead, the greenhouse will facilitate the growth of plants historically found at Oakland.
After HOF’s establishment in 1976, plans were made to restore the greenhouse and other cemetery structures that had fallen into disrepair. However, that project did not come to fruition and brick walls are what remain of the greenhouse today.
Fortunately, the BMGC greenhouse fits perfectly in those existing walls. This allows
Oakland’s preservation team to restore function to the greenhouse while retaining its historic features and meeting preservation standards.
Additionally, preserving and restoring the cemetery’s history is central to HOF’s mission. Atlanta’s first greenhouse was erected at Oakland Cemetery in 1870, and over the next few years two more greenhouses were built to accommodate growth. Very little documentation exists that indicates anything about the architecture or location of these buildings, though HOF has been conducting material and archival research as well as archaeological investigations to learn as much as possible about these structures. This information will be incorporated into an effort to interpret the historic “work area” of the cemetery, where the greenhouse, carriage house, and boiler room stand along with a stable that no longer exists.
“Having a working greenhouse will give us the opportunity to properly interpret this important part of our history. It will also open up other possibilities, from a more diverse palette of Victorian-era plants to the ability to hold classes and workshops,” said Sara Henderson, director of gardens at HOF.