In summer 2015, Oakland Cemetery will once again have a working greenhouse on its property. In a fortuitous opportunity, the Buckhead Men’s Garden Club donated its displaced greenhouse on Atlanta History Center’s campus to Historic Oakland Foundation. The new building fits perfectly in the footprint of our historic greenhouse walls, which we are faithfully preserving as part of the first phase of interpreting the historic “operations area.”
A brief history of the greenhouses at Oakland Cemetery:
- December 22, 1866: Lemuel P. Grant sells 23.5 acres of farm land to the city for the expansion of the cemetery, this includes the area now holding the greenhouse.
- October 4, 1872: Sexton Connolly petitions the City Council on behalf of “ladies” to build a small pit to protect plants in the winter. First hothouse according to Atlanta Constitution article October 31, 1873.
- August 22, 1873: Sexton Connolly asks the City Council for permission to enlarge the greenhouse. This building was 3 times as large as the original hothouse. The new building was heated by a furnace, while the first was heated by stove.
- November 29, 1884: the Cemetery Committee approves a plan to demolish the current “hot house”, sell the land as lots and use the proceeds to build the new hothouse, for an estimated cost of $500.
- September 21, 1895: Sexton T.A. Clayton builds a “hot house.”
- 1896: Sexton Clayton is found to have been profiting illegally off of the cemetery, including selling greenhouse flowers.
- 1897: Sexton Clarence Stephens builds a new stable.
- 1900: A new greenhouse is built.
- 1916: The annual cemetery budget lists a florist to care for the greenhouse flowers.
- 1949: Aerial photos of the entire city show the greenhouse still intact with glass roof, along with the stable and dirt road through Potters Field.
- 1970’s: The City of Atlanta decides to remove the damaged glass roof of the greenhouse for safety reasons.
1999: Robert J. Fryman, Ph.D. and Blue Arrow Research conduct a Bio-archaeology survey in Potters Field on land that might have been affected by a proposed drainage line. In the survey area, 22 of 25 grave shafts that they found had already been exhumed from 1866-1890. They also found a layer of fill, including household refuse that had probably been brought in from surrounding areas, like Cabbagetown. These findings correspond to our findings.
- February – June 2015: Oakland Greenhouse Survey with GSU Anthropology Department. Dr. Jeffrey Glover. Trench and unit investigated found that to the north, there seemed to be an earlier wall that was collapsed and used as rubble, overlaying a number of 3cm thick slate slabs used as flooring for an earlier greenhouse. A layer of charcoal was found across the site that probably acted as bedding for the plants. The south end of the greenhouse yielded 3 grave shafts (an infant, juvenile, and adult) that had already been excavated, as they contained only coffin nails and screws. These burials all faced East. A layer of possible 20th century household fill such as medicine bottles, and the cachou box were found to the south in a layer above the burials.
- The Greenhouse, Hot House and Stove, 1838 by Charles McIntosh, F.H.S.: Describes a method of heating a greenhouse by two narrow brick flues running the length of the building, that were hollowed out in the middle, and built upon a solid brick foundation of one brick in height above the planting borders. He also describes a cold pit as being dug deeply into the ground, made of brick, and with a ground of broken stone or gravel, and a floor of coal ash for the plants.
- Gardening for the South, 1885 by William N. White: Describes a cold pit as good for wintering plants. It should be made of brick, preferably with hollow walls above ground, and the plants rest directly on the ground on sand or manure to soak up water and generate heat. A series of elevated sashes of window panes can be lowered and raised to aerate the plants and catch mild rains.
- November 19, 2015: Historic Oakland Foundation officially opens the Beaumont Allen Greenhouse. Watch the full dedication ceremony by clicking here.
Your donation can help sustain Oakland Cemetery’s new greenhouse structure. To make a contribution, click here. Select your donation level or amount, and in the special purpose field, select Greenhouse from the dropdown menu. Complete your donation by clicking the “Donate Now” button.