Unlike burial grounds in the city, the rural cemetery was to be an attractive and civilized place to bury loved ones. Oakwood’s founders chose a large section of land that included a hill, springs, valleys, steep slopes, and sturdy oaks. The rural cemetery was to be a place of spiritual fulfillment for the living, as well as a resting place for the dead. Oakwood Cemetery was designed to be a place of natural and man-made beauty, where individuals and families could escape their everyday lives and enjoy the surroundings.
Its importance today derives from its largely intact plan, created by New York City landscape gardener, Howard Daniels (1815-1863), to conform to the then-popular picturesque ideal in landscape design. Daniels was one of the country’s early and most important landscape architects. During the 1850s, he studied in Europe, published his theories in widely read horticultural journals, and designed fifteen rural cemeteries including Brookside, Watertown (1853) and Spring Forest, Binghamton (1853). Oakwood is his last known and arguably finest design.