The handmade bricks of Oakland’s many walkways were first installed by Atlanta Cemetery grounds crews a hundred and twenty years ago. In the decades since, humans and nature had left their mark, and the once-smooth walkways had become harder to navigate as a result of being pushed up by tree roots as well as dug up to install and repair irrigation and sewer pipes multiple times.
You’ll find it easier to get around on East Hill now because the preservation team just wrapped up months of walkway work. Since April, contractors have been repairing and smoothing walkways, making sure to reuse historic materials wherever possible. Where bricks were broken, missing, or not useable, however, gaps were filled in with historically appropriate modern bricks of the same size and color.
Oakland’s historic bricks vary in color from light to dark because they were fired at various temperatures depending on how far away they were from the center of the kiln. We needed to make sure that the modern bricks still had the same range of colors, so separate cubes of each color had to be purchased and properly mixed.
You might notice areas of exposed aggregate concrete (concrete where the top layer of cement is washed away while it is still setting to expose different gravels) remaining on East Hill. We didn’t replace these concrete portions of walkways even though they are more modern than the brick. That’s because they’ve reached an age of more than 50 years and are considered historic. We know when they were installed because dates were carved in by people at the time.
All of this walkway work is part of a multi-year restoration project in the 7.5-acre East Hill. A stroll west from the new East Gate will reveal what else we’ve been up to. Walls have been rebuilt, countless headstones and monuments have been leveled and repaired, irrigation has been installed, and landscaping has been added as hardscape work had been completed. We still have work to do, but thanks to the hard work of our preservation and gardens crews along with help from trusted contractors, East Hill is looking better every day!