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Historic Oakland Cemetery

Courtesy of Historic Oakland Foundation

The Greek myth of Persephone is an origin story of the seasons, and it's temptingly ripe with symbolism. Saturday night — and for one night only — the historic Oakland Cemetery will host an ethereal evening of art inspired by the Persephone myth.

For the Cemetery's third annual "Arts at Oakland" event, artist Sanithna Phansavanh created 10 life-size murals that will be installed throughout the Victorian garden grounds. Improvisational music and movement collective Flight of Swallows will also perform throughout the evening.

Courtesy of Historic Oakland Foundation

Friday on "City Lights with Lois Reitzes":

Pokemon Go at Oakland Cemetery
Kyra Semien / WABE

Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta’s oldest cemetery, is home to a unique insight into the history of Atlanta. Recently, the Historic Oakland Foundation released a mobile app for iPhone and Android phones to accompany guests on their journey through the historic grounds.

The app holds a number of features of which visitors can take advantage, such as an interactive map of graves in the cemetery, a list of locations and graves, and the ability to take and share photos around the cemetery with a Historic Oakland Cemetery banner.

The Cheese Fest
Emily Schultz

Atlanta has a lot of events happening this weekend, so Atlanta PlanIt has pulled together some of their favorites for those looking to explore the city.

You can start at a festival where restaurants are competing for the title of “Best Grilled Cheese,” celebrate the beginning of October with a spooky Halloween play, or don your best Victorian costume at a beloved Atlanta cemetery. These are all things to do in Atlanta this weekend, Sept. 30 to Oct. 2.

Friday, Sept. 30

BreeAnne Clowdus / Horizon Theatre

Think of settings in Atlanta that would make the most sense for a ghost story and Historic Oakland Cemetery should be near the top of the list.

The folks at Horizon Theatre would agree. “Freed Spirits” is their new production. It’s a comedy mystery about a group of misfits tracking the supernatural around a tornado-ravaged Oakland.

Closer Look: Peachapalooza; Solar Panels; And More

Jun 9, 2016
Eboni Lemon / WABE

Thursday on "Closer Look with Rose Scott and Jim Burress":

Historic Oakland Foundation

  Many of the burials in Historic Oakland Cemetery’s African-American section never had traditional markers. The three-acre section resembles an open field, peppered with trees, shrubs and gravestones here and there.

Families without means placed wooden markers or objects that belonged to the deceased, like toys or other objects. Sometimes they planted rose bushes or other plants.

And this is why Neale Nickels, Oakland’s director of preservation, is crouched over an azalea bush with a thick stem.

Pamela Henman

Back when Atlanta was still little more than a town, William Jasper "the Goat Man" Franklin was a town character.

Franklin was known as "the Goat Man," obviously, because of his goat. Franklin had been partially paralyzed by illness, and he relied on a goat named Pete to pull him in a homemade cart around downtown Atlanta as he peddled apples and pencils.

Franklin was born in 1849 – just two years after the city of Atlanta incorporated. He died in 1910 and was buried in Oakland Cemetery next to his parents.

Naoko Takano (cropped) creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/legalcode / flickr.com/photos/naokomc/

Anyone who has attempted to get brunch in Atlanta on a Sunday morning knows what an endurance test it can be — and that feat is maybe twice as difficult on Mother's Day.

Although that time spent fending off your growing hunger may bring you and your mother closer together, the "City Lights" staff and Atlanta PlanIt's Kimberly Harbrecht have compiled a list of alternative events for Mother's Day.

Cooper Sanchez

In the spring of 2015, the Historic Oakland Foundation presented their first-ever "Arts at Oakland," an annual event partnering local artists and the storied Oakland Cemetery with the aim of showcasing and interpreting the landmark's history through art. The program debuted with "The Cryptophonic Tour," a sound art installation with audio arts collective ROAMtransmissions.

Mary Claire Kelly / WABE

If there are spirits here in Atlanta, you would find them in Oakland Cemetery.

Civil War soldiers, Atlanta mayors and thousands of unnamed souls all rest on the grounds of Oakland, which is managed by sexton Sam Reed. 

“Ever since I was in the first grade, I knew I was going to work with dead people," Reed said. "It’s like a special calling that I had.”

In its 1800s heyday, families used the greenhouse to store tropical plants through the winter, including species like this banana plant.
Historic Oakland Cemetery

Once, there was a greenhouse at Oakland Cemetery. But for decades, all that remained of the old Victorian structure was rubble. However, that’s changing as the cemetery erects a new greenhouse in the exact same spot.

The story of how the cemetery got its new greenhouse is a tale of historical musical chairs. It starts at Zoo Atlanta, in Grant Park. As the zoo expands, Grant Park’s Cyclorama is moving to the Atlanta History Center. However, the plot of land at the History Center where the giant Civil War mural is slated to go is presently occupied by a greenhouse.

Historic Oakland Cemetery and Atlanta Skyline
Evan Jang / WABE


The stories of Oakland Cemetery, and those whose remains are there, have been told many times and in many different ways.

But a dynamic retelling of the rich history of Atlanta’s landmark burial site promises a novel sonic experience.

Last year, Tunes from the Tomb included a full roster of live bands in an all-day festival at Oakland.

Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta
Oakland Cemetery / special to WABE

The Historic Oakland Cemetery was Atlanta’s first burial ground and its legacy remains strong.  

The 48-acre plot of land was named the 2014 "Great Place" in the Atlanta Regional Commission’s 16th annual Developments of Excellence Awards.