A place of unique significance, meaning and value to Raleigh, Wake County, the state of North Carolina, and thousands of citizens for more than 140 years, Historic Oakwood Cemetery provides a beautiful park-like setting for the final resting place of a fascinating cross section of over 22,000 of the area's citizenry, including many prominent city, state and national leaders.
Among the many beautiful monuments and statuary within the cemetery are those of seven governors, five United States Senators, eight Supreme Court Chief Justices of North Carolina, four Civil War generals, two Secretaries of the United States Navy, numerous Raleigh mayors, and thousands of other individuals, some widely known and others known only to their families, but each life's story constitutes a part of the interesting and colorful history of Raleigh, Wake County and North Carolina.
The famous 19th Century British statesman James Gladstone once said:
"Show me the manner in which a nation or community cares for its dead, and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land, and their loyalty to high ideals".
Historic Oakwood Cemetery measures up extremely well to Mr. Gladstone's criteria. The beauty of Oakwood is a statement to the manner in which Raleigh and its area citizens have, for more than 13 decades, reflected the highest fulfillment of the standard of caring.
Oakwood Cemetery encompasses 102 acres, of which 65 acres are developed and 35 acres remain for future needs. Oakwood Cemetery contains over three miles of paved roadways, several thousand feet of wrought iron fencing, a Visitor and Information Center constructed in 1910 of local granite, a Memorial Cremation Garden for cremation burials and a beautiful Chapel Mausoleum for above-ground full body and cremation entombments.
Oakwood Cemetery contains a very special area, the Confederate Cemetery, located on the original two and one-half acres given for that purpose by Henry Mordecai in 1867. Herein lie nearly 1,500 Confederate soldiers. Adjoined with the Confederate Cemetery is the impressive House of Memory. Erected in 1935 to commemorate those brave soldiers of the Confederacy, today its bronze memorial plaques recognize the many North Carolina servicemen and women who have served our country in time of conflict.
The diversity of the Raleigh area, with its wide variety of languages, cultures, religions, and traditions is not lost at Oakwood. Historic Oakwood Cemetery honors all those buried in the cemetery and remains open to all without preference or discrimination relating to race, religion, or national origin.
Valuing the heritage and people of the city, county, and state it serves, the staff at Oakwood Cemetery has conducted detailed research relating to the lives of many of the most notable and colorful individuals buried on its grounds. The Cemetery also preserves interesting information about hundreds of unique monuments, statues, and decorations which dominate the cemetery. This information is readily available to family members, historians, and interested individuals and is presented to student groups and visitors.
Oakwood is widely recognized as an outstanding example of the evolution of 19th Century garden cemeteries from the grid-like church graveyards to spacious, beautifully landscaped gardens and parks located away from fast paced city life. These "modern" cemeteries were designed to be resting-places for the deceased which could be enjoyed by the living and a place designed to "pay respects to the dead while celebrating life."
Like only a handful of garden cemeteries in other major metropolitan areas, Historic Oakwood is beautifully landscaped and filled with a wide variety of oaks, cedars, maples, azaleas, dogwoods, hollies, and other attractive shrubs and flowers that it presents a most serene setting. In addition, the excellence and diversity of the carvings, statues, bas reliefs works, and other decorations on its many memorials and monuments make the grounds an impressive sculpture garden of exceptional artistic interest.
A true Raleigh, Wake County and North Carolina treasure, one to be enjoyed by everyone who visits. Historic Oakwood Cemetery is not just a place to come to at the time of an interment but also on special memorial days, celebrations, and remembrances. Whether on guided tours or on casual visits to see the statues and study the inscriptions, or to simply enjoy a beautiful day, Oakwood Cemetery is for all.