Restoration, Mausoleum, Quatrefoil, Lion, March, 2004

FAQs

Who is responsible for doing what at Oakland Cemetery? 
Oakland is owned and managed by the Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs Department of the City of Atlanta. The City maintains the infrastructure such as the Bell Tower, the perimeter wall, drives, and water system. The City workers open the gates daily at approximately 8:00 a.m. and lock the gates at approximately 8:00 p.m. The City also provides administrative space for the Historic Oakland Foundation in the Bell Tower. Plot owners are responsible for the upkeep of their own plots including landscaping, retaining walls and gravestones. While some families faithfully provide this maintenance, for most plots there is no one left to take care of them.

What will I find at Oakland?
History, art, architecture and local lore make Oakland a unique experience. So does the fact that it is Atlanta’s third largest public green space, with many of the city’s finest and most interesting specimens of trees and shrubs.

One thing you’ll find is a quiet, calm atmosphere ideal for getting away from noise, traffic and frenzy. It’s hard not to feel peaceful at Oakland. Bring a picnic lunch, walk your dog, or explore a little history. It’s up to you. Picnics are possible on public grounds, however grills and fires are not allowed. Dogs on leashes are welcome but please clean up after your pets and do not allow them on the monuments.

What are Oakland’s needs? 
At the present time, Oakland needs approximately $15 million of restoration and repair work on monuments, mausolea, graves, retaining walls, walkways and landscaping.

Isn’t Oakland mainly a Confederate cemetery? 
Oakland is an Atlanta cemetery, capturing the full sweep of the city’s past and present. Of the approximately 70,000 graves, some 6,900 are Confederate soldiers who died in Atlanta hospitals or on nearby battlefields. See About Oakland – History and Map of the Cemetery for more information.

Can I take a guided tour? Can school groups come? 
Historic Oakland Foundation offers an appealing selection of general and specialized tours, as well as seasonal special events. School tours serve thousands of students every year. Check the Visit Oakland, Guided Walking Tours page for more information.

What can I do to help Oakland? 
Joining the Historic Oakland Foundation is a big first step, and it can lead to many fascinating volunteer opportunities.

Who manages the cemetery? 
The Sexton, or manager of the cemetery, is an employee of the City of Atlanta Parks Department and handles all burials and official records. The Sexton must approve all commercial photography. All work on lots should be reported to the Sexton.

The Historic Oakland Foundation, established in 1976, is the non-profit friends group for the cemetery. The Foundation manages the walking tour program and raises funds for the beautification and restoration of the cemetery. Offices for both are located at the Bell Tower Building inside the cemetery. Special Events should be scheduled through the Foundation.

Where should I park? 
Oakland opened in 1850, long before the first automobile was invented. Parking is available in a lot just outside the front gate or along the street on Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive and Oakland Avenue. If you park inside the cemetery just pull your vehicle off to the right of any asphalt-paved roadway, with enough space for other cars to pass. Please be especially careful not to damage walls and trees. Buses and large vehicles are not allowed inside Oakland’s gates since they cannot make the turns inside the cemetery. Please be sure to lock your car and not leave valuables in view.

Is there a fee to visit the cemetery? 
No, there is no entrance fee for the cemetery, but guided walking tours are available March – November on Saturdays at 10a.m., 2p.m. and 4.pm. and on Sundays at 10 a.m., 2p.m. and 4p.m. From April through October, guided twilight tours are also offered at 6:30 p.m. Private guided group tours may be arranged for other days and times. Guided tours cost $12 for adults, $6 for students, children, and seniors. Self-guided walking tour maps are available at the Visitors Center/Museum Shop for $5.

How did Oakland get its name? 
The cemetery was originally called Atlanta Cemetery until the name was changed to Oakland due to the many beautiful oak trees growing here.

How many people are buried at Oakland? 
Although there are only approximately 40,000 markers, records indicate that more than 70,000 souls rest at Oakland. Family monuments mark some plots rather than individual markers. Other markers were originally wooden and were not replaced once they disintegrated. There are 3,000 unmarked Confederate graves and approximately 7,500 buried in Potter’s Field without markers.

Why are some markers damaged or missing? 
Most markers that are damaged or missing are not victims of vandalism. Sometimes markers simply sink into the ground and are covered up by grass and dirt. Others are damaged due to age, pollution, weather, erosion or lawnmowers. Many markers were damaged in the March 2008 tornado or by trees falling since that time. To prevent additional damage, please do not climb or walk on headstones, monuments, markers or walls. Rubbings are not allowed.

Why are African Americans buried in a separate section at Oakland? 
Oakland was developed when slavery still existed in the United States, and further expansions of the cemetery occurred during the era of segregation. Of course, Oakland is no longer segregated and anyone may be buried wherever they purchase a plot or space.

Who can be buried at Oakland today? 
Oakland remains an active cemetery, with approximately one burial per month. Lot owners occasionally wish to sell spaces. If a family contacts the the Sexton regarding a plot or space they wish to sell, he provides them with a list of people who have contacted us and expressed interest in purchasing burial space here at Oakland. Individuals wishing to purchase plots should contact the sexton, Samuel Reed at 404 658-6019, sreed@atlantaga.gov .

What is Potter’s Field? 
This is the field where paupers, or people who could not afford to be buried on a private lot, were buried prior to 1900 at the city’s expense. People without families to handle their arrangements were also buried here at City expense. When a burial record lists the grave site as “unassigned,” this indicates that a person was buried in Potter’s field. No markers exist in Potter’s Field today, but many graves were originally marked with wooden markers. According to an archaeological survey, approximately 7,500 people were buried in Potter’s Field.

How do I find out if a specific person is buried at Oakland? 
Please send an e-mail to jchisholm@oaklandcemetery.com or sreed@atlantaga.gov or call us at 404 688-2107 and give us as much information as you know about the deceased: full name; other relatives who may also be buried at Oakland; approximate date of death; any Regimental or Company information for soldiers. We will check the records and get back with you shortly.

The easiest way to determine where someone is buried is to request an unofficial copy (less expensive) of their death certificate from the county in which they lived or died. The State of Georgia Archives [(678) 364-3710] also has many of these records (post-1922) from various counties. Also, the Atlanta History Center Archives [(404) 814-4040] has a copy of the late Franklin Garrett’s Necrology on microfilm, which lists all white males buried within a 30-mile radius of Atlanta until the 1940s.