About 4 really big city blocks north of Grant Park and Zoo Atlanta lies Oakland Cemetery. Part graveyard, part city park, part history book, part botanical garden, and part study in architecture, Oakland Cemetery is certainly worth the effort. (I wouldn’t walk it from Grant Park though, 4 really BIG city blocks.)
In just an hour or so you can soak up some history, stand in the middle of well worn paths with beautiful views, and visit the final resting place of some very famous Georgians including Margret Mitchell author of Gone With The Wind.
I was alone the day I visited. It’s not often I have a Sunday afternoon all alone in downtown Atlanta, well, in fact that has never happened, but a few weeks ago it did. And what do you do, where do you go, when your daughter has a 4 hour tour and interview to be a teen volunteer at Zoo Atlanta? A quick Google search and this looked like the place to lull away a little time. I’m very glad I went. And personally, I’m glad I went alone. It was a good fit for a meandering kind of day.
I started from the Zoo by driving north on Cherokee Avenue which will run you right into the cemetery. I made a left then the first right onto Oakland Avenue where there is a free parking lot right by the main gate and the historical marker. This gate takes you into the original six acres of the cemetery that was in Atlanta before the Civil War and remained after the town was burned down around it. It leads into the area where the oldest graves are including a pretty creepy mausoleum statue that ‘watches’ the comings and goings of the Oakland Avenue entrance.
There is a bell tower the was built in 1899 that served as a chapel and living quarters for the cemetery’s sexton. Today it is a pleasant visitor’s center. I did buy the cemetery self-guided tour map for $5, it’s worth it just to stay oriented and get some quick historic information. The bell tower also has clean air conditioned bathrooms, just so you know. (Probably the most valuable piece of information!)
The architecture displays examples of Victorian, Romanesque, Neo-Classical, and Gothic Revival just to name a few. These are set into the landscape surrounded by beautiful gardens, sometimes with the city of Atlanta as a backdrop.
Adjoining the oldest section are memorial grounds for Confederate soldiers and a sculpture erected in 1894 know as The Lion of Atlanta marking the graves of the unknown Confederate dead. There is a peaceful path leading to the lion who is depicted as mortally wounded and a bench for a quiet shaded place to sit. The identical rows and rows of soldier’s tombstones never fail to give me pause, no matter what war, and was a stark reminder that this was after all a cemetery.
But even though there is places for thoughtful reflection as I meandered around surrounded by the past, there were families, and students, and people walking their dogs, strolling their babies, and people like me taking a slow Sunday walk. Whatever your reason, Oakland Cemetery is quite an oasis it this big hot city. I highly recommend spending a little time here especially if you are between the the zoo and suppertime and have a few minutes to fill.
Here’s a link to my whole photo album of Oakland Cemetery.
For homeschooling this would be a great place to wrap up or begin an American history unit on The Civil War, a field-trip for literature in connection with Gone With The Wind and a visit to Margret Mitchell’s house, studies in landscaping and architecture, a good place to practice photography especially composition, and to discuss the meanings and symbolism of monuments, graves, and mausoleums for social studies.
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