Q: What’s the story behind Westview Cemetery? It’s been around a long time, hasn’t it? Are burials still performed there?
A: There is a rich history and a remarkably immense abbey and mausoleum at Westview Cemetery, which is celebrating its 130th anniversary this year, but Charles Bowen Jr. was quick to remind me that they bury more than 200 bodies every year.
“We are a private, perpetual care cemetery,” he said.
That said, Bowen, the third generation of his family to own and run the 600-acre cemetery just off MLK Jr. Drive and Interstate 20, is attempting to find a way to combine the historical significance of the cemetery, which opened in 1884, and its more solemn business aspects. Areas of the property just west of Atlanta offer skyline views and feature monuments marking the graves of many prominent names from the past, including Asa Candler, William Hartsfield, Joel Chandler Harris, Henry Grady, Robert Shaw, Robert Woodruff and L.P. Grant, who donated the land for Grant Park.
The bell tower and archway date to the cemetery’s beginnings, leading to interest from the city’s historians and preservationists, and the mausoleum and abbey were built in 1943.
Westview is hosting anniversary events (westviewcemetery.com/events.html) this month, including a lineup of speakers 10:15 a.m. Saturday and guided bus tours next week.
The Atlanta History Center has scheduled “Party with the Past” on Oct. 30, a free event (reserve a spot at atlantahistorycenter.com/program/party-past-0). Part of the Battle of Ezra Church, one of the Civil War clashes around Atlanta in 1864, was fought on what is now Westview property and about 360 Confederate soldiers are buried there. The cemetery offers a guided driving tour to help navigate the more than 30 miles of roads and you’ll want to see the massive and beautiful Gothic mausoleum and abbey, one of the largest buildings of its kind.
“We’re feeling pressure to do some things (to promote Westview’s history), but we still have to balance it,” Bowen said. “There’s a ton of history here.”
For more information, go to westviewcemetery.com or call 404-755-6611.
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