Happy Preservation Month! I wanted to use this as an opportunity to talk about one of the exciting projects we have teed up in the near future. The Women’s Comfort Station is a small, single-room structure located near the Jewish Grounds at Oakland Cemetery. It, along with a nearly identical building adjacent to Potters Field, was constructed in 1908 as a restroom and place of refuge from rain or excessive sunlight. It has sat vacant for roughly 50 years, deteriorating from weather and neglect. What’s more, in 2010 a large tree fell and destroyed the roof. A temporary roof was installed but was not meant to be more than a quick fix. This building is barely hanging on. It is one of the highest priority items on Oakland’s grounds.
What it lacks in size, the women’s comfort station makes up for in character. The interior features mosaic tile floors, glazed tile walls, sea green plaster, and marble stall partitions. It was a luxurious building for its time, especially being a restroom! The exterior, too, is unique. It boasts a flat roof with stone parapets as well as a false “pent roof” covered in pressed tin tiles. Two kinds of brick were used in the construction: tan and red and ornate window muntins. This building is architecturally valuable not only to Oakland but also to Atlanta. No other comfort stations were known to have existed prior to the ones built at Oakland. And today, there are no known buildings like this one in the City.
The Women’s Comfort Station is historically and architecturally significant factors that alone justify saving this building. But what will we use it for? Having a free-standing restroom out in the middle of the cemetery is a security hazard and a maintenance nightmare. Our hope, instead, is to turn the building into a revolving exhibit for panels about the history of Atlanta and Oakland that can also be used intermittently by schools, museum groups, and artists.
We are in the fundraising stages of this project right now. A project like this requires a massive amount of time and funding. We will have to completely reconstruct the roof, replace most wood elements with exact replicas, rebuild brick and stone elements, and extensively rehabilitate the deteriorated interior elements. If you are interested in helping the HOF save this little treasure of a building, click here.
Ashley Shares, Preservation Manager