Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, Invest Atlanta President & CEO Dr. Eloisa Klementich, Atlanta City Councilwoman Liliana Bakhtiari and others braved cold temperatures inside historic Oakland Cemetery Wednesday morning. More than three-dozen people were in attendance for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate a complete rehabilitation to the cemetery bell tower.

The rehabilitation has taken place over a couple years and is part of Historic Oakland Foundation’s $12.5 million capital campaign, Living History.

“Just as it was in 1899 these changes have ben made possible through partnerships,” Dr. Richard Harker, executive director, Historic Oakland Foundation said. The Imlay Foundation, Invest Atlanta, along with private investors contributed financing for the project.

Atlanta mayor Andre Dickens called Oakland Cemetery’s rehabilitation a big part of his plans. Photo by Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice

Dickens called the bell tower, “A bit of the past and a bit of the present,” and “This very beautiful new space will [host] field trips I imagine and they will be able to see pieces of Atlanta history.”

The 133-year-old bell tower had its lower level, upper level and porch, with a view of the entire cemetery on one side and of the city on another, rehabilitated. The building also received a paint job. There are plans to use the bell tower as an event space.

Atlanta-based Smith Dalia Architects handled the architecture and Marietta-based J.M. Wilkerson Construction Co. was the project contractor.

“So much of our city’s history is here, including our African American history” said Dickens of Oakland Cemetery. “We have so many important Atlanta stories connected in these spaces. Oakland is such a big part of my vision of Atlanta as a city that is working to become the beloved community that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned for us all.”

Bakhtiari added, “Oakland [Cemetery] is such a staple in the community. It’s a community space.”

The Oakland Cemetery bell tower, Wednesday, November 16, 2022. Photo by Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice

On the Day of the Dead, which is observed in the United States Between November 1 and 2, thousands celebrated loved ones lost at Oakland Cemetery. There is a planned Victorian holiday market scheduled to take place Dec. 3 & 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Oakland Cemetery bell tower was constructed in 1899 in order to house a chapel and an office for the cemetery sexton. The building cost $4,000 to build, according to Oakland Historic Foundation.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Donnell began his career covering sports and news in Atlanta nearly two decades ago. Since then he has written for Atlanta Business Chronicle, The Southern Cross...