The final resting place of some of the city’s most distinguished citizens is getting a facelift -- along its back side.
Up until recently, historic Linwood Cemetery has been surrounded on two sides by black wrought iron fencing, topped with sharp spires. And since 1957, the back two sides of the cemetery, which run along 17th Street between Fifth and 10th Avenues, and a stretch of the west side facing Fifth Avenue, have been graced by a chain link fence topped with barbed wire to discourage trespassers.
For a week now, workers have been digging and welding in place matching iron fencing along Fifth Avenue and are working their way up the 17th Avenue side, courtesy of the Historic Linwood Foundation.
The foundation, established in 1997 as an effort to restore and renovate the city’s first cemetery, works together with the city to maintain the 28-acre historic property.
Foundation Executive Director Jane Brady said she was not at liberty to divulge how much the project will cost, but said it was made possible by a gift from Warren Foley, chairman emeritus of the foundation’s board of directors.
“We’re so glad it will finally encircle the entire cemetery,” Brady said. “We’re always doing something here to renovate, restore and beautify.”
The fencing project, being done by Iron Works International of Atlanta, will replace more than 2,000 feet of chain link fencing with wrought iron. The work was originally estimated to take about two months.
“But they’ve only been at it about a week,” Brady said.
“And you can see how far they’ve gone.”
The workers have finished the stretch along Fifth Avenue and about 150 feet along 17th Street.
The Historic Linwood Foundation and the Riverdale/Porterdale Foundation provide private funding and volunteer help to assist the city in maintaining its historic cemeteries, according to Deborah Abraham, cemetery division manager for the city.
“We’re in partnership with the foundations,” she said. “They do whatever they can do that we’re not able to do to help enhance the cemeteries.”
Riverdale, Porterdale and East Porterdale, the city’s other three cemeteries, are clustered near the intersection of Victory Drive and 10th Avenue. Porterdale was established in 1836, Riverdale in 1890 and East Porterdale in 1946.
But Linwood Cemetery is literally as old as the city. It was established in 1828, the same year the city was incorporated by the state legislature.
Its first resident, whose grave’s actual location has long been lost to time, was 7-year-old Truman Thomas. He was the son of Edward Thomas, the city’s first surveyor and planner. The boy succumbed to the elements of an unusually harsh winter of 1828 and was buried on land that his surveyor father would soon dedicate to be the city’s cemetery.
Among the others interred at Linwood are: Francis Joseph Springer, founder of the Springer Opera House; W.C. Bradley, the industrialist founder of the business empire that still bears his name; Dr. John Pemberton, the pharmacist who created Coca-Cola; H. Augusta Howard, the woman who founded Georgia’s Women Suffrage Association; and Confederate Gen. Henry L. Benning, for whom Fort Benning is named.
In the southwest corner of the cemetery, an old iron cannon stands sentinel over some of the hundreds of graves of Confederate soldiers buried there.