Before / After
Public Housing

Set in Stone


After 5 years of driving past this graveyard on Cleveland Avenue, and many more years of eyeing it from I-75, I finally stopped to visit the Gilbert Memorial Cemetery. Maybe I put it off so long because I always imagined visiting the plot would require parking in the emergency lane and darting across a few lanes of highway traffic. Actually, you can park at Krystal, cross the exit ramp at a crosswalk, and enter through a circle of mature crepe myrtles. Inside, there’s a white marble obelisk that you would never notice from the interstate. This is a popular corner for prostitutes and other street professionals, a few of whom shared my fascination with the memorial. 


The Georgia historic marker says: “use of these grounds expanded to provide burial for members of various churches and fraternal lodges of the neighboring black community.” Down the hill, 50 or 60 concrete graves are nestled in the freeway exit loop. I had assumed the DOT built around the cemetery, but their uniformity suggests that these are not the original headstones. 

It’s a “memorial cemetery,” meaning that the graves were displaced and later marked in the perfect circle of grass created by the southbound entrance ramp. The obelisk marks the site of the original 1861 burial plot, but the graves were “destroyed by unknown persons in the late 1950’s.” Some time later, “concerned local residents and local clergy” rallied the Federal Highway Administration, Fulton County, and Georgia DOT to recognize the cemetery with a permanent monument. It's difficult to think that the memorials themselves needed a memorial. They placed the state historic marker in 1983.


Victoria Williams

Interesting how you have to enter the site. Even though it's accessible, parking at the Krystal, crossing the exit ramp at a crosswalk, and entering through a circle of mature crepe myrtles still sounds like really going out of the way. It's like a secret but it's out there in the middle of everything. Weird. Kinda like geo-cacheing.


Thanks V. I feel like these graveyards are even more quiet and sealed off because of the deadspace created by freeways and industrial development, which is an odd kind of benefit.

Jean McBride

I'm wondering if these misplaced stones are the ones on I-75. If they are, the story I heard was that this was in fact a black graveyard. Not a formal cemetery. Anyway when the news of some possible construction, the man who owned this property removed the headstones and placed them in his basement so that he could sell the property to the State DOT. Once the DOT found out, they recovered the headstones and returned them to the area as best they could. That's the story I heard anyway. I don't know if the man was prosecuted or not. He should have been.


I remember when the DOT found these graves. It was during a major expansion of the lanes of the interstate in 1983. There was a big deal made of it, and the graves were preserved and the headstones added. No one knew about it beforehand and no one was hiding the headstones. There weren't any surviving ones. These are all new. Thanks for your great site! I have really enjoyed it.

Dennis Childs

Jean - you've posted a couple of pictures of Mountain View buildings (under "Historical tours"). Can I use one of them in the Mountain View wikipedia article, which I have been editing recently? That needs the copyright owners permission.


Dennis - You can use my Mountain View photos. Please credit Jason Palmer. Can't wait to see the revised wikipedia entry!

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