City leaders purchased Oakland Cemetery’s initial six acres in 1850 to be a public burial ground. Designed as a rural garden cemetery, a nineteenth-century innovation conceived as an alternative to traditional graveyards that were often crowded and aesthetically unappealing. Originally called Atlanta Graveyard or City Burial Place, Oakland was renamed in 1872.
After the Civil War, space was added to provide a proper final resting place for soldiers who had been hastily buried on area battlefields. By 1867, the cemetery reached its present size of eighty-eight acres. It is Atlanta’s third largest public green space.
In 1976, Oakland was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Historic Oakland Foundation was established to oversee the restoration and maintenance of the graves and property. Impressive architecture and monuments employ many styles, including Victorian, Greek Revival, Gothic, Neoclassical, and Egyptian Revival. The city and the foundation work together to stabilize the cemetery and make it an attractive, meditative, and educational environment, where public programs, ranging from walking tours to concerts, are routinely offered.