Volunteer Voices: Getting to Know Oakland Volunteer Christine Leinbach

Oakland Cemetery relies on the incredible energy, dedication, and generosity of over 200 volunteers. Working in the gardens, giving tours, staffing the Visitors Center & Museum Shop, or giving countless hours at special and private events, Oakland volunteers never fail to amaze with their passion and commitment. Weve asked some of Oaklands volunteers to share their stories of how they became involved as Oakland volunteers and their experiences here.

Meet Christine “Chris” Leinbach

Christine Leinbach

Tell us a little bit about yourself and you came to be involved with Oakland.
Not long after my husband Peter and I moved south to the Atlanta “suburb” of Buford in 2010, we joined the Atlanta History Center. We were new to this area, having moved from Reading, Pennsylvania to be nearer our then only three grandkids, who live in Cumming – we now have two more in California! We wanted to become more familiar with our new home, and thought what better way to do that than to learn its history?

It was through one of the Atlanta History Center’s “Party with The Past” events that we were introduced to Oakland Cemetery. Coming to that event was particularly exciting for us. We have always had an interest in old cemeteries. Living just north of Philadelphia for so many years, we were surrounded by early American history; not to mention Peter’s family had roots in Reading going back to the 1600s.

It wasn’t unusual in the 1970s for me to take my young children on rides around the Reading countryside, checking out old graveyards and churchyards for long lost ancestors, picnicking at the gravesites too, much as I imagine those ancestors did decades earlier! So, we eagerly anticipated partying with the past at Oakland, and it did not disappoint! That was in fall 2012 and in January 2013, we attended a volunteer orientation and the rest is, well, history.

Peter and I started out as garden volunteers. Before long (with encouragement from Mary Woodlan, the director of volunteers at that time) I became a tour guide, which allows me to share Oakland’s wonderful story with people of all walks of life and all ages. And for the last five Halloweens, it has been my great pleasure and honor to portray a resident during the Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween Tours.

Christine in the Victorian spirit during Oakland’s Victorian Holiday event.

Why do you volunteer at Oakland?
As a transplanted “Yankee” I have learned so much and come to appreciate the rich history of my new home through the stories of the residents in this hallowed place. There are over 70,000 souls resting here and each one has a special tale. It is hard for me to choose one favorite experience as a result of my volunteering, however, I think being able to bring some of the residents’ stories back to life, even for a little while, during those last weeks in October is probably the most gratifying for me.

It is humbling to revisit these individuals and peel away some of the layers of their lives. Most moving for me is discovering that they were not really different from you or I, despite the century or more separating us their joys and heartaches, successes and tragedies, dreams and disappointments actually mirror our own. I have a passion to keep those stories alive and remind visitors that the folks buried here are not just names on stones; at one time they were vital individuals. Peter and I can’t imagine not being part of Oakland nor missing out on coming to know the great people, our fellow volunteers and the staff here, who we now call special friends. This is truly our family of “creation.”

Christine during Capturing the Spirit of Oakland

What else should we know about you?
I retired before moving here. I was an activities/art therapist in a psych unit at a major hospital in Pennsylvania. My specialty was geriatrics, using art primarily to calm and help individuals with acute dementia related issues. I continue to use my art background now, painting mostly. My subject matter revolves around my grandkids, dogs and especially the beautiful grounds and gardens at Oakland. My husband Peter and I enjoy spending time gardening (at home and at Oakland!) as well as being with our grandkids on both coasts and relaxing with our three sweet dogs.

If you are interested in volunteering at Historic Oakland Cemetery, want to be considered for our January 2018 new volunteer orientation, or want to know more about what our volunteers do, please click here to learn more about HOF’s volunteer needs and submit an application.   

HOF Statement on Confederate Monuments Advisory Committee

On November 6, Mayor Kasim Reed’s Confederate Monuments Advisory Committee recommended that ownership of the Lion of Atlanta monument and Confederate Obelisk be transferred from the City of Atlanta to Historic Oakland Foundation, which works in partnership with the City to preserve, restore, enhance, and share Historic Oakland Cemetery. In addition to transferring ownership, the committee recommends relocating the flagpole currently at the obelisk and providing information that puts the monuments in context. 

Read a full summary of the committee’s recommendations in The Saporta Report

Historic Oakland Foundation applauds the recommendation of Mayor Kasim Reed’s Confederate Monuments Advisory Committee as it pertains to the Lion of Atlanta and the Confederate Obelisk located in Oakland Cemetery. The process by which the Committee came to its conclusions was thoughtfully and meticulously researched; providing an inclusive environment for community input.

We look forward to working with the City of Atlanta on next steps. This includes finalizing the details pertaining to ownership of the artifacts and developing and installing materials that contextualize the monuments appropriately.

David Moore
Executive Director
Historic Oakland Foundation

Oakland Resident Spotlight: James G. Woodward and the New South Crisis of 1908

By Andrew Fowler, Education Program Intern

“CRISIS, crisis is the only word that expresses the present situation in regard to the mayoralty of Atlanta,” read the first words of the November 10, 1908 issue of the The Atlanta Georgian newspaper. This alarming headline refers to the 1908 mayoral election, a political event that gained national attention and made a name for Atlanta Mayor Jim Woodward.

James G. Woodward was born January 14, 1845. He worked as a printer for several newspapers, including the morning Atlanta Constitution and the afternoon Atlanta Journal. With an interest in politics and the backing of many labor unions in the city, Woodward launched a successful campaign for mayor in 1898, championing the causes of the working and middle classes of Atlanta. According to Atlanta historian Franklin Garrett, Woodward’s election was a “distinct recognition of the growing power of organized labor in the city.”

Woodward served as mayor from 1899 to 1901 and again from 1905 to 1907. He was a divisive figure, viewed both as a hero to the working class and a threat to the Atlanta elites. To benefit the working classes and the city as a whole, he expanded city services, advocated for Atlanta’s first public library, oversaw the construction of many of the downtown viaducts, and added a ‘public comfort’ building to Oakland Cemetery.

While the city was becoming more modern with these additions, it was Mayor Woodward’s public manner (including his public displays of intoxication) and handling of city affairs that worried Atlanta elites. Prominent Atlanta businessman Joel Hurt criticized Woodward’s managing of the city as “unruly and in disarray,” and labelled his administration as corrupt. Hurt and other city leaders viewed Mayor Woodward as a threat to Atlanta’s growing reputation as the leading city of the “New South” order. They were concerned that he could damage the city’s optics as it vied for investment from Northern industrialists. After the carnage and catastrophe of the infamous Atlanta Race Riot of 1906 in which dozens of African Americans were killed, the city’s image as a progressive leader of the New South was in jeopardy.

A comment from The Atlanta Constitution, dated November 29, 1908:
“If Atlanta elects Woodward she will say by her actions that she prefers for the head of her city a drunkard and a habitue of the brothel. Here’s hoping that those that favor civic righteousness will prevail”

In 1908 Woodward once again ran for mayor and won the three-man Democratic primary with a 25-point margin. Since the “Solid South” voting bloc essentially made Georgia a one-party state in the early 1900s, the winner of the Democratic primary was seen as a shoe-in for Mayor and the general election a formality. The seemingly inevitable prospect of another Woodward tenure frightened Atlanta business leaders. They envisioned the city’s reputation plummeting, and their fears soon became reality. On the night of November 5, 1908, Woodward was arrested under the Washington Street viaduct after a night of heavy drinking and raucous behavior. The news of his arrest spread quickly.

The arrest received a mention in the New York Times, and a Columbia, S.C. newspaper asked “Will Atlanta swallow ‘Jim’ Woodward again?” The Atlanta Georgian noted that such a time called for the city to “abandon old customs and act as this crisis demands.”

City leaders scrambled to find a solution. At the Kimball House Hotel, 25 of the city’s most influential leaders created a commission to find a replacement for Woodward. Robert F. Maddox, a Fulton County commissioner, was enthusiastically selected during the four-hour meeting. One commission member stated, “this is the first case of the office seeking the man rather than the man seeking the office.” The city leaders then led an impromptu parade through the city streets, rallying support for Maddox to face Woodward. However, Woodward had no plans of halting his campaign in the upcoming general election. When the dust finally settled and all the votes had been counted, Maddox came out ahead with 7,719 votes to Woodward’s 4,570 votes.

His defeat in the 1908 mayoral election did not deter the persistent Woodward. He maintained his popularity with the working classes and within his native Third Ward district, which then consisted Summerhill, Grant Park, and Cabbagetown. Woodward rallied enough support to win both the 1912 and 1914 mayoral election. Mayor Woodward continued to be a thorn in the side of many New South advocates and Atlanta elites during his final years as mayor, which included supporting the textile workers during the Fulton Bag and Cotton Mill Strike in 1914-1915. His term ended in 1917, and Mayor Woodward ran unsuccessfully for a fifth term in 1922. He died the following year in September 1923, and is buried at Oakland Cemetery.

To learn more about Mayor Jim Woodward and other Oakland mayors, attend our one-time-only tour, “From Moses to Maynard: Oakland’s Legacy of Atlanta Mayors” on Sunday, November 5 at 3 p.m. or 4:30 p.m. Capacity is limited and tickets are available in advance only, by clicking here.

Run Like Hell 5K F.A.Q.

Get a head start on registration before it closes on Oct. 11!

Q: Can I register for Run Like Hell on race day? 
A: No. Race registration closes on Wednesday, October 11 and race day registration will not be permitted.

Run Like Hell 5K is capped at 1,600 participants, and registration is filling up quickly. Please do not wait to register, as additional capacity is not guaranteed.

Q: Where do I get my race number?
A: Race packet pickup is available in advance of Run Like Hell, or on race day. Early pickup is available at Big Peach Running Company.

Early pickup at the Decatur location is available from 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. on Thursday, October 12
114 East Trinity Place
Decatur, GA 30030

Early pickup at the Midtown location is available from 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. on Friday, October 13
800 Peachtree Street
Suites B&C
Atlanta, GA 30308

Race day packet and T-shirt pick up is from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. at Lion Square.

Check out the Memorial Drive Greenway at Run Like Hell!

Q: How early can I arrive at Oakland Cemetery on race day?
A: Oakland Cemetery opens at dawn, and race day packet and t-shirt pickup is available from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. at Lion Square.

Q: Why is the route different this year?
A: Run Like Hell is now in its 10th year, and on this milestone anniversary we’re excited to show off an exciting new development happening just outside of Oakland Cemetery’s gates! The new route is faster, and highlights the Memorial Drive Greenway project that leads up to the Georgia State Capitol.

Click here to view and download a Run Like Hell 5K route map.

Q: Who benefits from Run Like Hell?
All proceeds from Run Like Hell benefit Historic Oakland Foundation’s mission to preserve, restore, enhance, and share Oakland Cemetery.

New this year is the opportunity for participants to help HOF fundraise in support of the cemetery’s African American Grounds restoration project. Individual and group participants can fundraise toward HOF’s $5,000 restoration goal.

Q: How do I get my race results?
A: Results will be posted on Oakland’s website and the It’s Your Race registration page by the end of day on race day. Participants can receive results in real time by downloading the It’s Your Race mobile app, available on iOS and Android devices.

May the best costume win!

Q: Can my child participate in Run Like Hell?
A: Yes. Please note that although the Run Like Heck kid’s 1K has been eliminated, children are still welcome to participate in the main race. Awards will be given to kids with the fastest times in the 10 & under and 11-14 age groups.

Children in strollers do not need to be registered as race participants.

Q: How do I get to Oakland Cemetery?
A: For directions to Oakland Cemetery, please click here.

We strongly encourage race participants to utilize public transportation or rideshare service, carpool, bike, or walk to Oakland Cemetery. Bike racks will be available adjacent to Oakland’s main gate at the intersection of Oakland Avenue and Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive.

Q: Where do I park?
A: Parking is available at the gravel lot near Oakland Cemetery’s main gate at the intersection of Oakland Avenue and Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive. Please note that lot parking is available on a first come, first serve basis and off-street parking is limited. Handicap parking is available in the lot at Oakland Cemetery’s gates.

We strongly encourage attendees to walk, bike, carpool or utilize MARTA. Oakland Cemetery is conveniently located just minutes away from the King Memorial rail station. 

Q: Will Run Like Hell be cancelled if it rains?
A: No, Run Like Hell 5K is a rain or shine event.

Q: Can I bring my dog to Run Like Hell?
A: Yes – and costumes are encouraged! The best-dressed dog will take home a prize during the Run Like Hell costume contest. Please keep your dog on a leash at all times, and always pick up after your pet.

Light snacks will be on hand, but be sure to carbo-load before the race!

Q: Can I be a part of Run Like Hell without being in the race?
A: No 5K is complete without a cheering section! Invite your friends, family, and other well-wishers to cheer you along the route with signs and noisemakers. The Memorial Drive Greenway makes for an ideal location for spectators, who are also invited to check out the activities happening inside Oakland Cemetery before and after the race.

Q: Will there be food and drink at Run Like Hell?
A: Complimentary water, bananas, and Muscle Milk bars will be available for race participants. Light refreshments will also be available for purchase from Brown Boys Lemonade, King of Pops, and Wag-A-Lot, which offers doggie ice cream.

Q: How does the costume contest work?  
A: The best-dressed racer will be selected by way of audience participation, so get creative with your costuming! Prizes will be awarded in the following categories: Best Adult Male, Best Adult Female, Best Group, and Best Dog.

Norcostco Atlanta Costume offers Run Like Hell registrants 10% off retail costumes and makeup (excludes tech items and rentals) & $5 off costume rental.

Q: What else is there to do at Run Like Hell?  
A: After the race stick around for the awards ceremony and costume contest. Corepower Yoga will offer race participants a free 30-minute yoga session — feel free to bring your own yoga mat! Guided mini-tours of Oakland Cemetery will also be available.

Show your race number at the Oakland pop-up shop at Lion Square for 10% off your purchase. HOF members receive an additional 10% off on purchases.

Get into the spirit with Run Like Hell’s playlist on Apple Music and Spotify!

Get the latest Run Like Hell 5K updates by joining the event Facebook page. 

Thank You to our Sponsors!

October brings festivities and family-friendly fun to Historic Oakland Cemetery

In 1976, after decades of deterioration, vandalism, and general neglect, Oakland Cemetery found a rebirth of sorts when a small group of concerned and committed Atlantans rallied to restore the cemetery to its former glory. In 1977 the organization became a federally-recognized nonprofit organization, and this October Historic Oakland Foundation celebrates that 40th anniversary with a month full of activities perfect for fall.

On Sunday, Oct. 1 Oakland Cemetery hosts the 39th annual Sunday in the Park fall festival. This year’s Sunday in the Park will be free and open to the public, as HOF’s way of saying thanks to the thousands who have supported Oakland Cemetery over the last four decades.

“The past 40 years have been phenomenal for Oakland Cemetery. This is a crucial time in our organization’s growth, and we’re just as excited for what the future holds for HOF,” said David Moore, executive director of HOF. “We invite everyone to come out to Sunday in the Park, celebrate with us, learn something new, and spend a beautiful fall day in an unforgettable setting.”

During Sunday in the Park the cemetery will feature exhibits chronicling Oakland Cemetery and HOF’s evolution, as well as historical highlights for the city. The festival also includes a Victorian costume contest, living history demonstrations, live performances, kid’s crafts, an artist market, and much more. Sunday in the Park opens at noon and continues through 6 p.m.

Support HOF’s 40 in 40 campaign at Sunday in the Park!

Sunday in the Park caps off HOF’s 40 in 40 campaign, which began Aug. 23 and seeks to raise $40,000 in 40 days in celebration of the organization’s milestone anniversary. Though free to attend Sunday in the Park, donations are welcomed and also count toward the 40 in 40 fundraising goal, which supports a range of preservation, education, and public interest projects at Oakland Cemetery.

Following Sunday in the Park, Oakland is off to the races with the 10th annual Run Like Hell 5K on Oct. 14. This year’s race features a new, faster route spanning the cemetery, Memorial Drive Greenway Project, and Georgia State Capitol. Run Like Hell is a family-friendly race and an AJC Peachtree Road Race qualifier. Run Like Hell includes a Halloween costume contest, post-race activities, and the opportunity for participants to fundraise in support of HOF’s African American Grounds restoration project. Early race registration ends on Sept. 15, and registration closes on Oct. 11. Race details and registration available at www.itsyourrace.com.

Run with Oakland on Oct. 14!

The acclaimed Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween Tours rounds out the month, with tours held over two weekends on Oct. 20-22 and Oct. 26-29. As one of the only opportunities to visit Oakland Cemetery after dark, Capturing the Spirit resurrects the stories of Oakland residents through vivid historic reenactments. Ticket sales for Capturing the Spirit broke records this year, with all tours selling out within a week of going on sale to the general public in July.

“Everything we do at HOF drives home our mission to uphold this unique historic landmark,” said Moore. “Through educational programming, special events, public outreach, and more, we showcase Oakland Cemetery as a one-stop repository of architecture, botanical gardens, modernity, and history.”

All proceeds from Oakland Cemetery’s special events and tours benefit HOF’s mission is to preserve, restore, enhance, and share Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta’s oldest public burial ground and treasured historic landmark. Event and ticketing details available by clicking here.

Oakland Resident Spotlight: Major Charles Hubner, Poet Laureate of the South

Charles W. Hubner: Poet Laureate of the South
by Larry Upthegrove

Charles Hubner was born on January 16, 1835 in Baltimore, to Bavarian parents. His mother was a teacher and his father a merchant tailor.  They lived comfortably, with Charles studying literature and music, his two great loves.  In fact, at age 10 Charles wrote his first hymn, a sign of things to come for him.

Hubner’s poetic tribute to Edgar Allan Poe

His route to art school took him past a hospital, where, one day, a plain coffin was being taken to a hearse nearby.  Two gentlemen had their hats off, standing by with respect as the coffin passed.  Charles asked “Please, sir, who are they going to bury?”

The man replied: “My son, that is the body of a great poet, Edgar Allan Poe. You will learn about him some day.”

Charles could have hardly dreamed that 60 years later, he would receive the “Poe Medal” at that very spot for authoring the poem that would pay tribute to Poe on his 100th birthday.

Not all of Charles interests were artistic.  He also loved reading about the West and various wars.  It was a great, exciting time for a young man when the nation was going to war against Mexico.

In addition to his studies, Charles’ life during his teens involved working as a clerk for several different businesses in Pittsburg, as well as Baltimore until he and his mother began traveling to Bavaria to visit her relatives.  They experienced several horrific Atlantic Ocean crossings. When returning to the United States in his late teens, Charles worked menial jobs such as wood cutting, river boating, and more store clerking.

By 1851 at age 16, he found himself in Boonville, Missouri.  Five years later as the disagreements between Kansas and Missouri seemed ready to boil into full-fledged war, seemingly Charles would have to be a part of it.  He joined Missouri forces, drilling and training every night until they seemed ready, but the situations cooled enough that the unit was disbanded.  The next three years Charles spent some time with his father in Iowa, then traveled in Europe again, returning to the United States and locating to New Orleans in 1859, where he spent a couple of years teaching school along the Mississippi River towns.

1861 was an eventful year for Hubner. In Fayetteville, Arkansas, he entered Confederate artillery service, meeting the love of his life, Ida, in that same place.  Their romance was fast forming, but they were determined to not marry until peace prevailed, so the courtship would last four long years.

A young Charles Hubner and his first bride, Ida.

Charles’ battery was in Company H of the first Tennessee Regiment, Bee’s Brigade.  General Elliott Bee was fatally wounded during the first major action of the Civil War at Manassas, Virginia along the creek called Bull Run.  Charles was in the honor guard, firing rifle salute over the grave of General Bee.

Charles spent his year’s enlistment fighting with the artillery and helping high command manage their armies with his acquired clerical skills.  When his time was up, he left Richmond for Chattanooga and joined the U.S. Military Telegraph Corps, where he achieved the rank of Major.  He had charge of the headquarters couriers, detailed to carry military dispatches, and served in this capacity later under Joseph E. Johnston from Chattanooga to Atlanta.  In fact, on July 17, 1864 at 10 p.m., Hubner was charged to deliver a telegram to General Johnston which relieved him of command of the Army of Tennessee, just two days before the Battle of Peachtree Creek.

After the fall of Atlanta, Charles was ordered to run the telegraph office in Selma, Alabama, a huge supply and shipping depot for the South. When the war ended, he was mustered out of service in Selma, where he obtained a position as a clerk in a book store.  He began to write and contribute poems to the Weekly Visitor and the Selma Daily Times. In the meantime, General Johnston was writing his own history of the war.  The two men were well acquainted, and Johnston sought a quiet and secluded desk in the rear of the book store to do his writing.  The two former Confederate officers had numerous conversations regarding the war.

Finally on November 15, 1865, Charles and Ida were married at Woodbine, Tennessee.  For three years the Hubners were very happy. Charles worked for several papers as editor, and their son was born in 1867.  Later Charles contracted malaria and was so sick that doctors told him to go live in Europe to be treated there, so he left his wife and baby and went to his mother’s residence.  By 1869 he recovered and returned to his wife and son, establishing himself in Memphis.  It was there Western Union hired him to take charge of their Atlanta office. On January 1, 1870, the young family arrived in the city that was to adopt them.

In the next five years, the Hubner family grew by two daughters, while Charles became less and less a telegrapher and more and more a contributor and editor of newspapers and periodicals.  They had a happy family and life was wonderful until tragedy struck.

In 1875 Ida developed a fever and a distressing cough that persisted in spite of all the doctors could do.  Four months later on January 29, 1876, Ida Ann Hubner died.  She was buried a few days later in Oakland Cemetery.

Mary Francis Whitney Hubner

Before she died, Ida begged her best friend and neighbor, Mary Frances Whitney, to help Charles look after the three children. In fact, it was the whole Whitney family that helped Charles.  They took care of his children in the daytime, and after work Charles had his dinner and then picked up the already-fed kids and took them home.  Before long, he was taking his evening meal with Mary Frances Whitney as well, and “Miss Frank” became a close friend to both Charles and the children.

The two would talk for hours about literature and music, and they visited Ida’s, grave.  Charles and Mary Frances planted flowers all around the grave together. He needed her, and she loved him; it was inevitable that they would become man and wife. They married on March 15, 1877 and on February 23 of the next year, a son was born. Two years later a daughter was born but died as an infant.

Charles Hubner

During that time Charles’ career skyrocketed. He wrote for major publications and had several books published.  His friends included Sydney Lanier, Joel Chandler Harris, and other men who topped the Southern literary field in those days. Charles’ days and many evenings were occupied with the sort of things he reveled in. His wife loved hearing about those things, and they had many happy times together.

Once a month Mrs. Hubner and her mother, Mrs. Joshua Whitney, loaded their buggy with tools, a lunch basket, and the children, and they’d drive out to Oakland Cemetery to work on the family plots. In about 1881 they planted a small magnolia tree on the Hubner lot, which has grown to impressive size today.  The children played around the mausoleum nearby, admiring the angel who guarded the graves of their Aunt Julia and two little cousins.

The Hubners had a long and fruitful life together. Mary Frances lived until 1927, and she was buried on her family lot at Oakland Cemetery, alongside her mother, father, and others. In 1928 Charlotte’s Poetry Society of the South named the Major “Poet Laureate of the South.”  In early 1929 Charles Hubner died at nearly 94 years old. There were very few Georgians that did not know Major Charles Hubner, either personally or by reputation. The magnolia planted by “Miss Frank” and her mother is a living memorial to the mother and daughter bond.

Hubner lot at Oakland Cemetery

Update: Arts at Oakland Presents: Persephone

persephone freshtix2

While we’d hoped for a dry evening on Saturday, May 20, Mother Nature had other plans and we were forced to reschedule Arts at Oakland Presents: Persephone due to inclement weather. Thank you for your patience as we worked throughout the week to arrange a new date and time for Persephone.

We hope you will be able to join us on Friday, June 9 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. as artist Sanithna Phansavanh and music and movement collective Flight of Swallows bring to life the Greek myth of Persephone through visual art, music, and dance.

As a historic site, Oakland Cemetery is not configured for nighttime events, which are a rarity given the high production costs and complexities. While we are unable to re-stage Persephone as it was originally intended, your attendance will help us recoup some of the losses from May 20. Arts at Oakland was created to both support Historic Oakland Foundation and the participating artists who lend their time and talent to Oakland Cemetery.

Those who purchased general admission or Patron Pass tickets in advance but are unable to attend on Friday, receive free entry to Tunes from the Tombs on Saturday, June 10. Sanithna Phansavanh’s artwork will also be on display for the duration of Tunes from the Tombs.

General admission tickets for Persephone will also be available for purchase in advance at FreshTix and at the gate.

Click below to purchase advance tickets for Arts at Oakland Presents: Persephone 

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Thank you for supporting Historic Oakland Cemetery, and we hope to see you in June!

Thank you to our sponsors!


Historic Oakland Cemetery kicks off special events season with Arts at Oakland Presents: Persephone

For one night only on Saturday, May 20, visitors to historic Oakland Cemetery will find the Victorian gardens at the height of springtime bloom and accentuated with installations from artist Sanithna Phansvanh during Arts at Oakland Presents: Persephone.

Phansavanh’s life-size acrylic on canvas works for Persephone reflect themes of spring and rebirth, utilizing a vibrant palette of pinks, blues, purples, and yellows that contrast with Oakland’s natural hues.

“The whole idea of the show is inspired by the Greek myth Persephone, the goddess of both vegetation and the underworld. For a few seasons of the year Persephone is allowed to leave Hades and come back to the land of the living, and when she does, the land flourishes,” said Phansavanh. “So there’s a sense that we’re only allowed here for a few seasons. And when we’re here, when life has its bloom, that’s cause for celebration and respect.”

Phansavanh’s work can be found around Atlanta, from installations along the Atlanta BeltLine, in Cabbagetown and Colony Square, and even adorning cans of Orpheus Brewing’s Maenads Tripel.

Accompanying Phansavanh is improvisational music and movement troupe Flight of Swallows, who’ve performed at 7 Stages Theatre, Atlanta Contemporary, Art on the BeltLine, and Atlanta Fringe Festival. At Persephone, Flight of Swallows will stage seven aerial, dance, and musical performances throughout the evening at Oakland Cemetery’s North Public Grounds.

Persephone is the third installment of Oakland’s annual arts event and marks the start of Historic Oakland Foundation’s special events season, which culminates in October. Arts at Oakland pairs HOF with local artists who interpret the cemetery’s unique history and natural beauty through art. Arts at Oakland debuted in 2015 with The Cryptophonic Tour, a sound art installation produced by ROAMtransmissions. In 2016 artist and gardener Cooper Sanchez produced Illumine: An Evening of Light and Art in the Gardens.

“Persephone will be an engaging, multi-sensory experience, and one of the rare opportunities to visit Oakland at night,” said Betsy Trope, manager of special events at HOF. “We are excited to show visitors the cemetery like they’ve never seen it before.”

Gates open at 6 p.m. and the exhibition closes at 10 p.m. Advance tickets are available at Freshtix.com.

Tickets are $18 in advance (plus fees) and $25 at the gate. A $75 (plus fees) Patron Pass includes admission for one; a limited edition screen print T-shirt featuring original artwork by Phansavanh; access an open bar which includes soft drinks and selections from Eventide Brewing, Orpheus Brewing, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and an exclusive cocktail from Old 4th Distillery and 18.21 Bitters; and complimentary fare from Good Food Truck.

Proceeds from the event benefit the participating artists and HOF’s mission to preserve, restore, enhance, and share Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta’s oldest public burial ground and most tangible link to the past.

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Arts at Oakland Presents: Persephone is sponsored by 


Oakland Tours in Focus: Maybelle Stephens Mitchell and Love Stories of Oakland

By Marcy Breffle, Education Coordinator


Maybelle Stephenes Mitchell pictured with young Margaret (l) and her brother Stephen.

Born Mary Isabel Stephens on Jan. 13, 1872, Maybelle Stephens Mitchell is best remembered as the mother of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Margaret Mitchell. Maybelle was the seventh child of John Stephens and Annie Fitzgerald. She attended finishing school at Villa Maria Convent in Quebec and graduated from Atlanta Female Seminary. In 1892, she married Eugene Muse Mitchell, an Atlanta lawyer and historian. The couple had three children, but only two survived infancy – Margaret and her brother, Stephens Mitchell.

Maybelle was one of the most important people in her daughter’s life and Margaret spent her youth fighting for her mother’s approval. Maybelle was well-respected by her family and the Atlanta community. She was known for her extraordinary intelligence, uncompromising morality, political enthusiasm, and personal charm. She was heavily involved in the suffrage movement and would take young Margaret to suffragette rallies. Maybelle was a founder of the League of Women Voters in Georgia and served as the president of the Atlanta Women’s Suffrage League in 1915. She championed educational causes and was a member of both the Pioneer Society and the Atlanta Woman’s Club.

Maybelle played a significant role in her daughter’s writing career. Even before she could write, Margaret showed signs of her gift for storytelling. As a child, she would dictate stories to her mother, when then transcribed the tales. She later made her own books with cardboard covers and Maybelle stored the books. A few of the hundreds of Margaret’s childhood stories still exist today. During summer vacations, Maybelle and Eugene would take their children to the Fitzgerald family home in Jonesboro, Ga., in Clayton County. Margaret grew up listening to the stories of her maternal great-aunts, Mary Ellen Fitzgerald and Sarah Fitzgerald, who were young women during the Civil War. These tales, along with other stories from older relatives who survived the Civil War, inspired Margaret’s interest in the antebellum era and post-war South.

Margaret Mitchell reading a copy of Gone with the Wind.

Margaret Mitchell reading a copy of Gone with the Wind.

When Margaret was six years old, Maybelle drove her on a buggy tour of Jonesboro. The pair visited the ruins of antebellum plantations, and Maybelle told stories of the families that had owned the once-stately homes. She explained that those families placed too much faith in the status quo, so when war broke out and their worlds exploded, the families fell to pieces. Maybelle stressed that one day Margaret’s world could fall apart and she would need a weapon to face any challenges that came her way. Margaret’s weapon would be her education, and she later attended the Woodbury School and the Washington Seminary, where she developed her writing skills as the literary editor of the yearbook and the president of the Washington Literary Society. Margaret was accepted to Smith College in Massachusetts, which Maybelle considered to be the best women’s college in the United States.

During Margaret’s freshman year at Smith, Maybelle contracted Spanish influenza and her illness developed into pneumonia. Margaret traveled home to visit her ailing mother, but arrived too late. Maybelle Stephens Mitchell died on January 25, 1919. Her illness and tragic death may have inspired part of the Gone with the Wind narrative. In the novel, Scarlett O’Hara escapes the Atlanta siege and returns home to Tara only to find out that her beloved mother, Ellen, died from typhoid the previous day.

Many in Atlanta society mourned Maybelle Stephens Mitchell. Her obituary in The Atlanta Constitution read:

“A woman of splendid education and of brilliant qualities of mind, as well as of a most lovable personality; she was always popular and always welcome in all efforts in which women were interested….her sudden death will be a source of grief in many Atlanta homes.”

Maybelle Stephens Mitchell was laid to rest in Oakland Cemetery and her husband in 1944. Margaret Mitchell was buried across from her mother when she died in August 1949.

To hear more stories of maternal and romantic love, attend our Love Stories of Oakland: Mother’s Day Edition program on Saturday, May 13 and Sunday, May 14. Tickets are only available online at ticketalternative.com.

To learn more about Maybelle and other members of the Mitchell family, attend the “Margaret Mitchell and Gone with the Wind” special topic tour. Tours will be held on June 4, July 1, and September 30 at 6:30 p.m. No reservations are required and tickets can be purchased at the Visitors Center & Museum Shop.

PRO Team Field Notes: Restoration and Preservation for Eliza S. Blake

by Ashley Shares and Dr. DL Henderson

Eliza Street Blake's headstone (center) before restoration. Photo courtesy Linda Ferree and Findagrave.com.

Eliza Street Blake’s headstone (center) before restoration. Photo courtesy Linda Ferree and Findagrave.com.

The first phase of the African American Grounds restoration has presented the Preservation, Restoration, and Operations (PRO) Team with many unique challenges and opportunities to hone our conservation skills. When we began working in Block 68, we discovered a brick bedstead bordering a marble monument that was almost entirely overgrown with grass. Most brick cradling is only one horizontal row deep (called a course) and often not mortared together in any way. Once we began carefully digging, we realized quickly that the bricks were cemented together with a high-portland content mortar and embedded in a thick layer of concrete that covered the entire grave space. Portland is what gives a mortar its rigidity, adhesion, and compressive strength. It is easy for us to tell when we encounter a mix that has a high percentage of portland because it cannot be easily scratched with a nail, and dislodging bricks or stone from it is challenging. The bricks in this case were laid three – or in some places – four courses deep so what at first presented itself as an easy project of simply relaying one course of brick turned into a major undertaking.

Because there were several courses and the mortar joints between them were very neatly tooled, the PRO Team determined that the installer had probably intended for more than a small portion of brick to be visible at ground level. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have taken the time to do such neat work. It was decided that the bricks should all be removed and reset at a higher grade. However, although we could remove the top courses, the course embedded in concrete was impossible to chisel out without breaking the bricks. As often happens, the PRO Team had to make a compromise between preservation and restoration.

Preservation is the act of stabilizing and conserving an object with as little intrusion as possible. On the other hand, restoration involves returning an object to the appearance and character it held during a historical “period of significance.” In the case of cemeteries, this means the day that the stone was first laid. At Oakland Cemetery, most of our projects involve a careful balance of both preservation and restoration.

On this particular project, we skewed more towards restoration. In order to ensure that the original top course of bricks was fully exposed above the soil line, we decided to add a course of modern bricks beneath the older ones. This allows the bedstead to appear the way it originally did. The mortar we used has high compressive strength and a similar color to what originally was used to lay them. In the end, we replaced the old gravel that filled the interior with new, fresher-looking 89 stone gravel.

Ribbet collageThe newly restored brick cradle encloses the grave of Eliza Street Blake. She rests among family members, all of whom predeceased her—mother Amanda Blake (d. 1877), uncle Lucien Heard* (d. 1881), grandmother Adrian Heard (d. 1884), and three-year-old Cornelius F. Blake (d. 1886) who lies in an unmarked grave. A 1928 advertisement in the Atlanta Constitution offered the sale of three graves spaces in the “colored section” of Oakland Cemetery. Interested parties were instructed to apply at 264 Ellis Street, Eliza Blake’s residence. Today, three unused spaces still remain on her family lot.

In late March 1936, Eliza Blake took a fall down the steps at her home and fractured her right upper arm. Aged 83, she already suffered from a heart problem, and she was impaired by dementia, or senility, as it was then called. During the week following her fall, Blake developed pneumonia, which further complicated her recovery. She died at William A. Harris Memorial Hospital on March 31, 1936. Her brief obituary noted that she was “a beloved matron” in her community. According to her death certificate she never married, though she was referred to respectfully by the honorific “Mrs.” in both her obituary and in Oakland’s burial records. Her funeral was held at Big Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where she was a member of the Independent Daughters of Bethel. She worked her entire life as a domestic servant, yet Mrs. Blake managed to leave a sizable legacy to her church—a bequest of $1,500.

*primarily documented as Lucius Heard

Dr. DL Henderson is a professional genealogist and Board Trustee at Historic Oakland Foundation.
Ashley Shares is Preservation Manager at Historic Oakland Foundation.

As HOF begins planning for the African American Grounds hardscape and landscape restoration, community engagement and support is critical. You can make a financial contribution to the restoration project in person at Oakland Cemetery’s Visitors Center & Museum Shop, located at the Bell Tower. Or donate online by clicking here. On the online donation page, be sure to select “African American Section” from the designation drop-down menu. Visit our African American Grounds page to learn about this restoration project in-depth.