Fragments of Atlanta: Oakland Cemetery

When my friend Jan was visiting a couple of weekends back, I decided to do something I’ve not done in the three years since I’ve been in Atlanta: play tourist.

Atlanta is not exactly the tourist Mecca that, say, Orlando, with its fun frolicksome army of intellectual propery attorneys, is. Nevertheless, it is home to some interesting places, including the world’s largest indoor aquarium and to Oakwood Cemetery, an old 19th-century graveyard with a fascinating history.

The place was founded in 1850. In 1864, Confederate general John B. Hood directed the Battle of Atlanta from within the cemetery (a fitting place, one might argue, from which the leaders of the agrarian South could conduct their ruinous war against an industrialized opponent). Today, it’s a public park, situated smack in downtown Atlanta’s runaway urban sprawl.

And it’s beautiful.

The entrance to the cemetery is gorgeous, all Victorian brick walkways and enormous oak trees. The back of the cemetery descends a rolling hill in carefully designed terraces:

The place is so interesting, in fact, that when dayo came into town for Frolicon, I brought her there as well.

The rest of this post has a very large number of massively bandwidth-crushing pictures, so I’ll put most of them behind cuts for your browsing pleasure.

As we wandered through the cemetery, which is huge beyond reason, one of the things that struck me was how much of a society’s social values and social norms are reflected in the way a society commemorates its dead.

Everything from gender roles to priorities to class hierarchies can be seen reflected in the headstones of an old graveyard. What are we to make, for example, of the Trotti family plot, which delineates expectations about gender and family norms with astonishing starkness: