Special Topic Tours
Children (aged 6-17) and Students: (with ID) $6
Seniors: (65 and older) $6
Historic Oakland Foundation Members: Free
Oakland’s Special Topic Tours will be available on Saturdays and Sundays, March 17 through October 14, 2018. No reservations required (except where noted). Each hour-long tour begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Bell Tower. There will be no guided tours on:
- May 19: Arts at Oakland presents Golden Hour
- Saturday, June 9: Tunes From the Tombs
- Sunday, September 30: Sunday in the Park
Please note that not all areas of Historic Oakland Cemetery are wheelchair accessible. Please use your discretion when planning your tour visit.
2018 Tour Schedule
All of the tours below (with the exception of Love Stories of Oakland and Malts & Vaults of Oakland) are available to private tour groups any day of the week. To book a private group tour, click here.
Art and Architecture of Death
From ancient times, people have sought to honor and perpetuate the memory of departed loved ones. In the 19th century, the development of rural, non-sectarian cemeteries like Oakland provided a setting that allowed for a diverse array of funerary tributes. Memorials reflected social status, wealth, and power. In the 19th century, an unprecedented variety of materials and architectural styles were available. Focusing on the artistic and architectural design elements of funerary monuments, this tour explores the origin and use of popular 19th century grave markers including tombs and sarcophagi, obelisks and angels, monuments of all styles, shapes, and sizes and Oakland’s magnificent mausoleums. As a microcosm of society, Oakland Cemetery reflects how the people of Atlanta lived and died. Architectural and design choices made by Atlanta’s citizens during their lives followed them to the cemetery in the art and architecture that commemorates their deaths.
Bandmasters, Fifers, Composers and More: Oakland’s Music Makers
From spirituals to shape-note singing, Oakland Cemetery’s musical roots are deep and far-reaching — and the tradition continues to this day. From Atlanta’s earliest days into the modern era, the city has long been a magnet for the musically-inclined. This tour spotlights some noted Atlanta musicians buried here, and examines how some of the cemetery’s architecture tunes into musical themes.
Historically, many African American women worked as maids, child nurses, cooks, and laundresses—all while managing their own households. As educational opportunities became available following the Civil War and emancipation, African American women aspired to occupations beyond domestic service. Many sought jobs as educators and nurses. Others with access to advanced education became lawyers and physicians. With increasing economic stability, more African American women became stay-at-home mothers, focusing their efforts on homemaking and children. Many African American women also considered it their duty to serve their communities and churches, and they did so in both professional and volunteer positions. This guided walking tour moves beyond historical stereotypes to explore the history, lives, and labors of Atlanta’s African American women.
Dying in the 19th Century
From the log cabin the Cherokee Indians called “medicine house,” to the establishment of Atlanta Medical College, to the medical advances resulting from the Civil War, this tour traces the history of death and disease in Atlanta in the 19th century. Atlanta in the early 1800s was considered the frontier. The rough and sometimes violent lifestyle, combined with the humid climate and swampy land, all contributed to illness, injury, and death among the population. Learn about the mystery and science of death and dying during a time when the discovery of germ theory and anesthesia coexisted with the use of leeches, water cures, and medical quackery.
Epitaphs – The Immortality of Words
How would you like to be remembered? Victorians gave considerable thought to this concept. An epitaph is described as “a statement commemorating or epitomizing a deceased person.” Join us as we explore some of the fascinating epitaphs that grace the monuments of Oakland. Whether brief or rambling, poignant or humorous, all provide insight into the person’s life. It’s certain you’ll walk away with a favorite!
Fear and Accusation: The Leo Frank Story
In 1913 Atlanta was a city in transition socially, culturally, and politically. The Old South had crumbled less than 50 years before, and the memory of the Civil War still hung heavy in the air. In fact, the Leo Frank story began that year on Confederate Memorial Day, April 26. Thirteen-year-old Mary Phagan planned to enjoy the festivities, but her life came to a sudden, violent end that day at the National Pencil Factory. Thus began a series of events that rank among the most tragic and indelible in Atlanta’s history. Although much of the evidence collected was questionable at best, factory superintendent Leo Frank was soon accused, tried, and convicted of the heinous crime. Numerous Oakland residents played key roles in the event. Lives of both the rich and the poor were forever changed. Learn the stories behind this infamous story in this thought-provoking tour.
From Terminus to Terminals: People Who Put Atlanta in Motion
Atlanta is a major transportation hub, but the city owes its beginning to the railroad. As far back as the early 1800s, when this area was nothing but forest, Georgia’s leaders recognized its ideal location as a connecting point for railroad transportation to the west, to the other cities in the Piedmont, and to the port of Savannah. Follow the journey of Atlanta’s evolution from a small-time rail town to a bustling metropolis with the world’s busiest airport, and see how many Oakland Cemetery residents had a hand in it all in our newest special topic tour, “From Terminus to Terminals: People Who Put Atlanta In Motion.”
History, Mystery and Mayhem
With more than 70,000 souls interred in its hallowed grounds, it’s no mystery that Oakland Cemetery has it’s share of the surreal. Hear the stories that defy explanation and eerie events that have passed into local legend, from mysterious burials to deaths occurring under peculiar circumstances. Explore the final resting place of Atlantans both prominent and unknown, but united in Oakland’s rich history. While not all of the endings are happy, these stories helped shape the Atlanta that lives on today.
The Jewish Grounds of Oakland
This tour examines the Jewish Grounds of Oakland Cemetery and identifies patterns of assimilation and persistence that began to surface as waves of Jewish immigrants entered and adapted to the culture of Victorian America. In 1860, Atlanta was home to about 50 Jewish citizens. That same year, the Hebrew Benevolent Society purchased within Oakland’s Original Six Acres a burial plot now known as the Old Jewish Burial Grounds. It is the second oldest Jewish burial ground in Georgia. In 1892, the Hebrew Benevolent Congregation (The Temple) acquired yet another, much larger plot and sold one fourth of it to a newly formed synagogue, Ahavath Achim. Ahavath Achim, made up mainly of newly arrived immigrants from Russia, developed what is perhaps the most visually compelling area of Oakland, often described as “forest like” because of 7-foot markers tightly packed together. Our guides will share their knowledge of the Jewish community’s history, notable citizens, burial customs, and symbolism found throughout these grounds.
Margaret Mitchell and Gone with the Wind
Explaining how the idea for her novel came to her, Margaret Mitchell said, “in the cradle.” She had heard so much as a child about the battles and the hard times following the Civil War, she believed for a long time that her parents had actually been through it. The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel was first published in 1936 and sold more than 1 million copies in its first six months of publication. It is reputed to be the second most-read book in the world, after the Bible. This tour visits the gravesites of Margaret Mitchell and her husband, John Marsh, as well as other Mitchell family members and pioneers of Atlanta. Meet several residents Margaret Mitchell is believed to have used as a basis for characters in Gone with the Wind. While none of the characters in the novel are specifically based on real-life people, she scrambled appearances and personalities of some she knew and knew of, to weave a compelling saga of a world turned upside down.
Oakland and the Civil War
Stand at the site where General Hood watched the Battle of Atlanta. Hear the story of the Great Locomotive Chase and Andrew’s Raiders. See the Lion of Atlanta as it lies wounded and dying over unknown soldiers from nearby battlefields and hospitals, and the Confederate Obelisk, at one time the tallest structure in Atlanta. This tour also explores the achievements of famous military leaders and soldiers during and after the war. Franklin Garrett, the official Atlanta historian, once said: “History has several components: the participants, the chroniclers, and the historians. All of these components reside at Oakland.”
Oakland’s Boys of Summer Baseball Tour
Imagine looking west beyond the main gates of Oakland. Look carefully and you will see a lush patch of green grass complete with a baseball diamond. Beyond the playing field is a city devastated and still emotionally smoldering from Sherman’s fires. Red flags hang from the doors of homes housing people with smallpox. It is May 12, 1866 and the city desperately needs something to celebrate. On this day, the Gate City Nine and the Atlanta Baseball Club take the field to play the first baseball game in Atlanta. Join us for a tour that recaptures the spirit of the day and examines the lives of several of the players taking part in that historic game.
Odd Fellows, Red Men, Masons and More . . . Fraternal Organizations at Oakland
Fraternal organizations in the United States were a post-Civil War phenomenon. By the late 1800’s there were literally hundreds of such organizations, with an estimated 1 in 4 adults belonging to one or more. The groups were either religious (or anti), politically, socially, or professionally based. One common element could be found in all – mutual aid for the members. Many of Oakland’s residents were active Woodmen of the World, Knights of Pythias, or Hibernians, just to name a few. Join us for a fascinating look at these organizations, many of which still exist today.
Pioneers of Atlanta
Meet the founding sons and daughters of a town originally known as “Terminus.” Wander among the graves of the first farmers, lawyers, early mayors, and town commissioners. Hear stories of accomplishments and failures, civil strife, gunfights, and interaction with other developing communities that made up a community of people, not just an economic center.
Victorian Symbolism at Oakland
Victorians were fascinated by the past and borrowed symbols they learned from the archaeological digs taking place in Egypt, Greece, Israel, and Turkey. In many cases, the symbols were originally secular but were changed to religious, and could have a totally different meaning from one period to the other. Victorians believed death was very peaceful and calming. The word “cemetery” means “sleeping place” and many symbols reflect that concept. Our guides will acquaint you with the many botanical, secular, and religious symbols at Oakland and interpret their meaning.
We Shall Overcome: African American Stories from Civil War to Civil Rights
Learn about the many interesting African Americans who helped shape the history of Atlanta including Mayor Maynard Jackson; Bishop Wesley John Gaines, minister and founder of Morris Brown College; Carrie Steele Logan, who established the first black orphanage in Atlanta; Antoine Graves, pioneer real estate broker; and Selena Sloan Butler, co-founder of the PTA in the United States.
The Women of Oakland
Early Atlanta was a man’s world. The few women among the first citizens were wives of railroad workers and merchants, slaves, and others who possessed the essential skills needed in a growing frontier town: cooks, laundresses, seamstresses, and boardinghouse keepers. The advent of the Civil War and the reconstruction of Atlanta into a metropolitan center changed the fortunes of the city and dramatically altered the image and status of women. From the domain of domestic life to the province of public life, this tour challenges the myth of Southern womanhood by uncovering the true social and personal histories of Atlanta’s pioneering women.
The following ticketed programs require reservations. Tickets are available in advance at www.freshtix.com.
Love Stories of Oakland
Bring someone you love and join us for a trip back in time! Meet a few of Oakland Cemetery’s lovers (and a few parents) who obviously expected their love to last beyond their time here on earth. This tour explores some of the frequent cemetery symbols of love and devotion and reveals poignant epitaphs that speak to enduring love. This journey takes you into parts of Oakland not often visited during other tours.
Saturday, February 17 & Sunday, February 18: 2:30 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Saturday, May 12: 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Saturday, August 25: 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Children (aged 6-17) and Students (with ID): $10
Seniors: (65 and older) $10
Historic Oakland Foundation Members: $6
Malts & Vaults of Oakland: Where Beer Meets History
What do a jousting match, exotic singing birds and the sun god Ra have in common? Why, everyone’s favorite malt beverage, beer, of course! Find out how the sudsy beverage connects these fascinating topics, and delve into Atlanta’s long and vivid history of brewing. After the tour, adults 21+ are invited to enjoy a complimentary tasting of some local brews.
Saturday, March 24: 6 p.m.
Sunday, April 21: 6 p.m.
Saturday, July 21: 6 p.m.
Saturday, September 15: 6 p.m.
Saturday, November 24: 3 p.m.
Children (age 6-17) and Students (with ID): $10
Seniors: (65 and older) $10
Historic Oakland Foundation Members: $6
Available Upon Request
Writers in Residence at Oakland
Oakland’s tranquil gardens provide the perfect setting for exploring the lives and works of novelists, poets, and journalists who populated early Atlanta’s literary landscape. Author of Gone with the Wind Margaret Mitchell; the 19th century “Poet Laureate of the South” Charles W. Hubner; Civil War Diarist Samuel Pearce Richards; and Pulitzer prize-winning journalists Julia and Julian Harris are among the many writers in residence resting at Oakland Cemetery.