Iconic bell tower at historic Atlanta cemetery unveiled after months of restoration

ATLANTA — A new chapter began Wednesday for Atlanta’s historic Oakland Cemetery.

The iconic bell tower is restored.

Channel 2′s Steve Gehlbach was there for the ribbon-cutting and explains how it brings new life to the hallowed grounds.

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Ringing again … the bell tolls in Oakland Cemetery’s iconic bell tower.

Built in 1899, it took months to restore.

But the renovated bell tower with outside balconies brought back overlooking the skyline will become an educational and community space for luncheons, weddings and other public events.

“It looks great. I’m happy,” Sam Reed said.

Oakland’s current sexton, and the cemetery’s chief administrator the last 24 years, Reed sees it not as a place of mourning, but one of celebration and life and welcomes the changes.

“As a place to visit, to have picnics, to celebrate their loved ones here, not as a sad thing, but as a happy thing,” Reed says.


City leaders say the cemetery is a true public-private partnership, raising millions for Oakland through Invest Atlanta and The Imlay Foundation.

And in cutting the ribbon on the bell tower, Mayor Andre Dickens says it’s part of his goal to embrace Atlanta’s complicated history and preserve it.

“We know we have to make our peace with our history in order to move the city forward. All of that can happen right here at Oakland,” Dickens said.

And as for that vault in the bell tower’s basement … “It’s going to be interesting,” Reed said.

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But he’s ready to move back in, continue his stewardship, and continue Oakland’s legacy.

The next project in Oakland Cemetery’s 20-year master plan happens outside the front gates.

They’ll break ground in 2023 on a brand new visitor center.


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