The oldest cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia, as well as one of the largest continuous patches of green space anywhere in the city, Oakland Cemetery was founded as “Atlanta Cemetery” in 1850 on only six acres of land just outside of the city’s downtown. Renamed in 1872 to better reflect the landscape, the cemetery had grown to its current size of 48 acres.
Buried on those 48 acres are Civil War soldiers, captains of industry, Civil Rights pioneers, and all other types of individuals. Some notable residents include 25 former mayors of Atlanta, six former governors of the state, several Confederate generals, employees involved in the Great Locomotive Chase, the founder of Morris Brown College, the owner of the pharmacy where John Pemberton first sold Coca-Cola as a soft drink, the only golf player to win all of the sport’s major tournaments in one year, and many more.
Since 1872 when the cemetery was renamed, Atlanta has continued to grow. While Oakland Cemetery first started out on the outskirts of the city, Atlanta has grown to encircle the park. Stepping through the front gates is like taking a walk back into a city that once stood more than 130 years ago. Many of Atlanta’s early street names and other landmarks names have been preserved on the mausoleums and tombs scattered throughout the cemetery.
While the last plots in the cemetery were sold way back in 1884, regular burials still take place in the park, usually on family-owned spots passed down from generation to generation or on plots owned by the city to be used for local legends, one of the most recent being mayor Maynard Jackson. Today, an estimated 70,000 people are interred at Oakland.