Nearly every evening last week, I worked on what was to be the third article in my series on Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery, based on the Exploring Place: History class that I took in 2007. (The previous article in this series is here, and all my articles on Oakland are here.) This middle segment of the class was the most substantial, because in it I extended my Oakland research into the surrounding neighborhood streets, exploring history as it played out on Decatur Street, Boulevard, Memorial Drive, and Martin Luther King Drive. The old Fulton Bag and Cotton Mills and the Cabbagetown district were part of that research, and I had started writing about them in that article.
The article remains unfinished. Little did I know that Atlanta would get hit by one of the few tornados this region has ever seen, on the evening of Friday, March 14, and that the tornado’s path would take it through the very areas I was writing about. The map below was supposed to be part of the original article, as a way of orienting the geography of the article in the same way it helped me organize my research.
If you look to the right of Oakland Cemetery on the map above, you’ll see a section bordered by Boulevard, Decatur Street, and Memorial Drive (highway 154). This is the area in my neighborhood that sustained the most damage; this is where the Cabbagetown district is located, and the Fulton Bag and Cotton Mill property is in the space where Boulevard and Decatur Street intersect, just above Carroll Street SE on this map. My home is less than a mile from this spot … and yes, an incoming tornado really does sound like a freight train. I hope I never hear that sound again.
I had the bright idea yesterday morning of heading over to Oakland Cemetery to take a few pictures of the damage to the Cotton Mill building. Hard to believe that it never occurred to me that the Cemetery itself might have sustained some damage, and I imagined just walking onto the property up to the northeast corner that I was so familiar with, and zooming in on the mill buildings.
Until I got there, that is, and saw this:
These trees had been knocked down just inside the entrance gate (at the intersection of Oakland Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, just above the “e” in “Memorial” on the map). A security guard was keeping people out … well, everyone except this dude with a camera who failed to come tell me how to sneak onto the property.
In any case, I wandered up and down Memorial Drive and Oakland Avenue, taking pictures over the brick wall that surrounds Cemetery. This shot is one of several I took of the Confederate Memorial, looking so strange with the trees that used to surround it now down on the ground.
Not far from the Memorial lies the Confederate section of the Cemetery, where several of the giant trees are either uprooted or shattered near the base of their trunks:
Some areas are just a chaos of twisted branches; it’s hard to even remember or describe how these spots, for example, looked before Friday evening:
The rest of the pictures I took of the damage to the Cemetery are in a Flickr set that I added this morning:
Oakland Cemetery Tornado Damage
I didn’t venture into the Cabbagetown neighborhood (I don’t know if I would have been able to anyway), and even though I walked Decatur Street to the north of the cemetery, I decided not to take any pictures of the private businesses or private homes that sustained damage. There is plenty of coverage of that; you can take a look at the Atlanta tornado article on Wikipedia for list of local news sources.
Damage from the tornados and from a series of powerful storms that repeatedly swept across Georgia Friday and throughout the day Saturday is expected to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, with many people suffering tremendous damage to or total losses of their homes and businesses. The American Red Cross has, as always, a highly visible presence providing folks with assistance throughout the state; if you want to help, consider making a donation here.
Wow, thanks for this update.
I’ve been a little hesitant to head out there myself, and although this is terrible to see, I’m glad you’ve taken pictures to highlight the extent of the damage.
If and when they start having volunteer cleanup days, I hope to see you (and everyone that reads this blog!) there.
Thanks for coming by, and for looking at the photos.
When I went over there, I wasn’t expecting the damage; I hadn’t heard anything about Oakland on the news at that point and it just never occurred to me. Maybe the surprise-factor made it a little bit easier, I don’t know. Probably just as well that I couldn’t get on the property; after seeing the AJC slideshow of the damage inside, I’m not so sure I’m tough enough to see it in person.
I’ll be volunteering, for sure….
Wow, that is devastation isn’t it.
You bet it is, and these pics are just what I could see from outside the walls … some photos from inside the grounds are now on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s web site here:
Thanks for coming by,
Good grief, Dale! That must have been horrific. The power that Mother Nature can unleash in a short space of time is very sobering.
I would like to more know on how to help fix the cemetery. We have a monument company in Elberton Ga and have the ability to help repair what can be repaired and fix and straighten the cemetery
Thanks for the comment. There is a contact number and address on this page:
That’s probably the best way to offer your help. In case the page is unavailable, here’s the info:
Historic Oakland Foundation
248 Oakland Avenue SE
Atlanta, GA 30312