Athens, Ga. – Several gravesites from Old Athens Cemetery have been discovered on the construction site for the expansion of the University of Georgia’s Baldwin Hall on Jackson Street. Construction on the site has been temporarily suspended, and UGA is working closely with the appropriate state agencies to ensure that the remains from up to 27 gravesites are properly removed and re-interred.
Old Athens Cemetery, also known as Jackson Street Cemetery, was the official town cemetery for much of the 19th century. The Jackson Street tract was part of UGA’s land grant from the state but was donated to Athens. It was deeded back to the university in 2004.
Baldwin Hall, which is adjacent to the south of Old Athens Cemetery, was built in 1938, and an expansion was completed in the mid-1940s. Based on historical records, university planners believed that when Baldwin Hall was built, all remains on the site had been removed and transferred to Oconee Hill Cemetery.
On Nov. 17, the construction crew discovered the first of the remains. Per state guidelines, UGA Police and the State Historic Preservation Office were immediately notified. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the county coroner also were contacted, who determined it was not a crime scene and that the decomposed remains were old. The case then was turned over to the State Historic Preservation Office.
According to state law, because it was not a crime scene and an archaeologist determined that the remains were not those of Native Americans, the removal of the remains is up to the landowner and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The state archaeologist requested that the remains be removed and re-interred elsewhere since land above the inadvertently discovered gravesites had been disturbed.
UGA officials are working with the State Archaeologist’s Office to determine the most appropriate location for burial. Based on a visual inspection by the consultant hired to assist the university in this matter, Southeastern Archaeological Services Inc., the remains are believed to be of people of European descent. UGA anthropology students are assisting in the exhumation process.