Restoration projects are under way at Shreveport’s oldest municipal cemetery. A ceremony was held Friday to recognize the work to be done on roads and walkways in Oakland Cemetery made possible by a $279,000 bond issue approved by voters in 2011. The dollars won’t cover all the work that needs to be done on the cemetery that dates back to 1847.
Shreveport mayor Cedric Glover recalls first visiting Oakland on a field trip at age 14. He said many city administrations have wanted to do capital projects, but it’s never been the most pressing priority.
“The condition of Oakland Cemetery has been one of the issues that has been at the forefront of the city of Shreveport I would imagine dating back to the 1970s when I was a high school student," Glover said standing in the cemetery next to a backhoe. "Unfortunately, when you balance it against all of the other issues, challenges and needs of the city it doesn’t make its way to the top.”
LSU Shreveport history professor Gary Joiner also serves on the Oakland Cemetery Preservation Society. It hired consultants about five years ago to produce a master plan. Joiner has made the cemetery the subject of previous History Matters commentaries.
"Over 1,000 people -- a quarter of the population at the time -- died during a five-week period in the late summer of 1873 during the great Yellow Fever epidemic. This is the third largest in the history of the nation. The high area at the southern extremity of the cemetery is not just a hill, but a burial mound," Joiner wrote.
City officials say the restoration work will be completed by November. The preservation society is fundraising separately to install Victorian street signs and lanterns in the cemetery.