Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Jackson Street Cemetery added to National Register of Historic Places

The Jackson Street Cemetery, located on the University of Georgia campus, has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The cemetery, also known as the Old Athens Cemetery, is located between the Visual Arts Building and Baldwin Hall and has approximately 800 graves on around 2½ acres of property. The listing was added Oct. 2.

For the past three years, the cemetery has been part of a preservation project headed by Janine Duncan, a UGA campus planning coordinator in the grounds department.

“Getting this honorary designation reinforces the importance of the site on a broader level,” said Duncan, who started the project as a graduate student.

The cemetery has been cleaned up and repaired. Vegetation has been cleared away, head stones have been repaired and cemetery monuments, including obelisks and vaults have received structural repairs. Duncan has worked with preservation experts, including the Chicora Foundation in South Carolina, on more specialized repairs.

The cemetery was used primarily between 1810 and 1856, and when it was full Oconee Hill Cemetery (located behind Sanford Stadium) opened.

Merchants, tailors, ministers, children of UGA faculty members, families of state government officials and two UGA presidents, Robert Finley and Moses Waddel, are buried in the cemetery. Duncan along with the anthropology faculty and students are working to indentify unmarked graves in the cemetery.

“The recognition is a great gesture in noting the significance of the cemetery,” said Dexter Adams, director of the UGA grounds department. “Our research and investigation into conditions at the cemetery have confirmed that there are many, many more burials there than are represented by the surviving markers and monuments. The National Register listing is at least a noteworthy and honorable means of recognizing those otherwise anonymous individuals.”

Paperwork for the designation was started two years ago.

“Cemeteries are some of the hardest sites to get on the register,” said Duncan, “because you have to prove the historic integrity is still there.”

So Duncan had to show that the majority of the grave markers, monuments and ironwork still exist. She also had to cite exactly why the cemetery is so culturally important.

“Cemeteries are hallowed spaces,” she said. “They are also artistic spaces. The designs in the headstones and monuments speak to the period in which they are created.”

Seven other campus facilities have previously been added to the registry. The Bishop House, the Founders Memorial Garden, the Lucy Cobb Institute, the Lumpkin House, Old North Campus and the President’s House were all added in 1972 and the Athens Factory (now the Interim Medical Partnership Building) was added in 1980.

The register is done through the U.S. Department of the Interior.

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