Jun 14, 2022 - News

Atlanta cemeteries to get greater support, recognition

Illustration of a headstone partially covered in ivy being dusted off with a feather duster.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Fans of cemeteries are teaming up with city planners to give Atlanta's under-appreciated and deeply historic final resting places some support.

Details: City planners are researching ways to preserve, help, and promote Atlanta’s historic and abandoned burial grounds — particularly the final resting places for Black Atlantans or Black communities, including those that no longer exist.

  • The city is creating the Atlanta Cemetery Network to teach people more about gravesites near their neighborhoods and enhance their preservation and protection.

What they're saying: "Cemeteries are more than just places we bury the dead," said Elizabeth Clappin, an urban planner with the city’s planning department, during the first meeting earlier this year.

  • "They're a very vital part of our landscape, both historic and presently. They're very important greenspaces. They’re places of public art."

Every cemetery is filled with stories, ranging from the choice of tombstones to the condition of the grounds, Kate Sweeney, the author of "American Afterlife," tells Axios Atlanta.

Fun facts: Among the trivia shared by city planners about Atlanta's 83-and-counting cemeteries, the majority of which are smaller than 1 acre:

  1. Dedicated in 1965, The Memorial to the Six Million by Atlanta architect Benjamin Hirsch in southwest Atlanta’s Greenwood Cemetery is one of the country’s earliest Holocaust memorials.
  2. The Burford Holly, a popular ornamental shrub, was cultivated in Westview Cemetery by head gardener Thomas W. Burford.
  3. Utoy Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, which predates the city's founding, was used as a field hospital during the Civil War.

What’s next: Tuesday night, the network is hosting its second meeting with a talk from Keith Harper (the Chattanooga-based "Cemetery Detective") at 6 at 2295 Benjamin E. Mays Drive SW. (Register)

Cool small cemeteries to check out: Clay Cemetery in Kirkwood and Sylvester Cemetery in East Atlanta.


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