The City of Dalton is the county seat of Whitfield County, which is located on Georgia’s northern border with Tennessee. According to the U.S. Census in 2000, Dalton had a population of 27,912 and a total land area of 19.8 square miles. Dalton is renowned as the Carpet Capital of the World because it contains more than 150 carpet manufacturing plants and approximately 100 retail carpet stores.
After the Native American Cherokee Indians were expelled from their homes in North Georgia on the Trail of Tears in 1839, a community named Cross Plains was founded about 10 miles south of the Georgia State Line. The community grew in size until 1847 when the residents changed the name to Dalton to honor the community’s founder, Edward Dalton White, and in 1851 Dalton was made the county seat of Whitfield County. During the Civil War, many battles were fought near Dalton including the famous Battle of Chickamauga. According to the U.S. government, Dalton and Whitfield County have more intact Civil War artifacts than any other place in America.
Approximately 54% of the labor force in Dalton is employed in the manufacturing sector. The carpet industry alone employs more than 30,000 people in Whitfield County. This highly profitable industry began with the entrepreneurial efforts of one Dalton resident named Catherine Evans Whitener who began selling homemade bedspreads in 1900. By 1930, demand for her bedspreads had created a local business that employed more than 10,000 workers and the salaries enabled many local residents to survive the Great Depression.
After World War II, a new form of mechanized carpet manufacturing was invented that opened up an enormous new market in the United States. Eventually Dalton’s bedspread plants converted to carpet manufacturing because the market is much larger than for homemade bedspreads. Today plants in Dalton manufacture commercial carpets, patterned carpets, tufted carpets, oriental rugs and a wide variety of textured floor coverings.
Real estate in Dalton
The estimated median home value in Dalton was $155,886 in 2007, having appreciated from $99,600 in 2000. The cost of living index in Dalton is relatively low at 85.3 and the average population density is 1,685 people per square mile. Although population densities in the North Georgia Mountains usually average around 800 people per square mile, the relatively high population density in Dalton is due to the large number of people who live there in order to be near their jobs at carpet manufacturing plants.
The residential housing market in Dalton is characterized by a blend of older homes in neighborhoods close to the center of town and newer master planned communities with condominiums and townhouses. Single family detached homes in Dalton range in price from under $100,000 to $200,000 for a 2 or 3 bedroom home on ¼ to ½ acre of land. Condominium and townhouse prices range between $125,000 and $400,000 in master planned communities that are located close to major highways.
Hotels in Dalton include Americas Best Inn and Suites, Best Western Inn, Comfort Inn and Suites, Country Inn and Suites-Dalton, Courtyard by Marriott Days Inn, Econo Lodge, Guest Inn, Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn, Quality Inn & Suites, Ramada Suites, Wellesley Suites and the Wingate Inn. There are 5 shopping centers in Dalton containing food stores and general merchandise stores, and the Walnut Square Mall contains more than 70 specialty stores and shopping boutiques. Restaurants in Dalton feature classic American cuisine and Southern barbecue as well as Mexican and Southwestern style cooking.
Dalton is rich in history and there are several historic sites to visit. The Hamilton House at 715 Chattanooga Avenue is the oldest home in Dalton. Built in 1840, the Hamilton House features many rooms filled with antiques. The Whitfield-Murray Historical Society is adjacent to the Hamilton House in a building that was constructed in 1885. The Whitfield-Murray Historical Society’s museum features exhibits that explain Dalton’s role in the Civil War and the history of Dalton’s unique bedspreads.
The Dalton Depot was built in 1847 and it was used by the railroad company until 1978. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Dalton Depot now contains an upscale restaurant and lounge. Built in 1848, the Blunt House at 506 South Thornton Avenue was the home of Dalton’s first mayor and postmaster, Ainsworth Emery Blunt. The Dalton Little Theatre at 210 N. Pentz Street is the oldest community theatre in Georgia and it gave its first performance in 1869. The Dalton Little Theatre presents a wide range of entertaining theatrical performances throughout the year.
Prater’s Mill is an historic site about 4 miles north of Dalton that dates back to 1855. Built with slave labor, the historic grist mill beside Cohulla Creek offers visitors the opportunity to view a slice of North Georgia’s history. While at the site, visitors can enjoy fishing in the creek or hiking along a scenic nature trail. From May to October each year, Prater’s Mill also hosts the Prater’s Mill Country Fair featuring local arts, crafts and musical performances.