In 1884, Oakland Cemetery was becoming overcrowded with departed souls. A group of prominent Atlantans looked west of downtown Atlanta to a large swath of rolling land still scarred from fighting during the Civil War. It was on this site that Westview Cemetery became the final resting place of more than 125,000 residents – and counting.
In the intervening years, the Westview community, established in 1910, and its quaint bungalows have become one of the city’s most desired neighborhoods with the arrival of the Atlanta BeltLine’s Westside Trail. Westview Cemetery is also primed for a renovation of its historic, but aging structures and grounds.
To that end, Westview Cemetery and the Atlanta Preservation Center have launched The Friends of Historic Westview Cemetery with plans to bring more attention to the nearly 600-acre burial ground and to raise money for its upkeep.
Westview’s permanent residents include Coca-Cola Co. founder Asa G. Candler, the soft drink company’s president Robert Woodruff, Atlanta Symphony Conductor Robert Shaw, Atlanta Falcons owner Rankin Smith, civil rights icons Rev. Joseph, Evelyn Lowery, Vivian Jones and Donald Hollowell, and local restaurateur and LGBTQ activist Ria Pell, to name a few.
Atlanta Preservation Center’s new executive director David Y. Mitchell said that unlike Oakland Cemetery, which holds a handful of burials a year, Westview is an active site with regular funeral services. It is expected that Westview’s permanent residents’ list will grow to a quarter of a million.
Mitchell said he hopes that Friends of Westview will help transform the site into a place for repeat visits, as well as a tranquil location for walking and contemplation. He said the cemetery’s recent addition to the National Register of Historic Places was another step toward bringing wider recognition to Westview.
“There is a weird, complex intersection of beauty and mortality at Westview,” Mitchell said. “You’ll want to come back again and again.”
The first project on the Friends of Westview’s list is the renovation of the Gatehouse structure, which was formerly the main entrance to the cemetery. Constructed in 1890, the Romanesque Revival bell tower is a Westside landmark. Mitchell envisions the Gatehouse being used for events, exhibitions, and community meetings, as well as a welcome center with public, unisex bathrooms.
Also on the list of projects is restoration of stained glass windows in the Abbey’s chapel depicting the life of Christ.
The 38 panels were made by the LA ART Glass Company in 1943 when the Abbey was conceived by Asa Candler Jr., the son of the Coca-Cola founder, who had himself installed as director of the cemetery association in 1934 and would remain there for 21 years. He oversaw Westview’s biggest expansion, including the building of the Abbey, greenhouses, a trophy room for his big game conquests, and even a movie theater.
For more information or to join Friends of Westview, visit friendsofwestviewcemetery.org.