This structure was built by Elbert Putnam in the mid-to late 1950s. Putnam & his wife, Georgia Lee, built at least a dozen chenille businesses along Highway 41 in Whitfield County. Many were operated by family members.
3. Crown Cotton Mill: 809 Chattanooga Ave.
This mill began operations in 1884. today, through adaptive reuse, it houses condominiums and apartments.
4. Crown Mill Store: 702 Chattanooga Ave.
The Crown Mill Store, in conjunction with Crown Cotton Mill, allowed for mill employees to run a tab that was deducted from their pay.
5. Crown Mill District Houses
Turn left on Matilda St. beside the old Crown Mill store, and drive through the district. To accommodate the increasing number of workers moving to town from rural areas, the Crown Mill built homes in what is now thee Crown Historic District. Homes were rented to mill families, and the rent was deducted from their pay.
6. Brooker Spread Co.: 105 Tyler St.
This structure is now used as a storage facility.
7. Roberts Machine Shop: 451 N. Hamilton St.
This structure was one of many area shops that made, adapted, and repaired textile machinery.
8. W & A Depot: 110 E. Depot St.
This structure was built in 1852 and in use as a depot until 1978. The railroad was pivotal in shipping textiles from the area. Today, the depot is a restaurant.
9. Cabin Crafts: 120 E. Morris St.
Now occupied by Shaw Industries, this building is one of several that housed Cabin Crafts.
10. Elk, later Boylston Crown Mill: 1029 S. Hamilton St.
This building has housed a number of businesses and is now for sale.
11. Old Boyston Crown School: 201 Bryant Ave.
Now City of Refuge, this building used to serve the children of mill workers.
12. Old Atcooga School: 1306 S. Thornton Ave.
Now this building is the central office of the Whitfield Co. School. Phone: 706-278-8070
13. Old Beckler's Chenille: 3800 S. Dixie Road, SE.
The first building constructed by Burch & Claudelle Beckler stood in front of this building and sold chenille products. This building, unlike its predecessor, was constructed with a concrete floor so a hyster could be used to move carpet.
14. Putnam Chenille
Just off Old Dixie Highway–still stands on Ben Putnam Rd., Dalton. Built by Elbert Putnam and operated by Bertie and Effie Collins, the structure is one of the few surviving “spread houses” that have survived. Many others have been torn down or vastly changed in appearance.
Email the Trail at email@example.com or call UWG Center for Public History at 678-839-6141 for more information.
Visit a town famous for both its chenille industry and carpentry, giving it the nickname of the “Carpet Center of the World”.
Things to Do
Bandy Heritage Center of Northwest Georgia, 695 College Drive: Explore archival records on the chenille and carpet industry at Dalton State University! Research access to the collections is currently available by appointment only. Their hours of operation are Monday through Friday 9:00 am – 5:00 pm.
Crown Gardens and Archives, 715 Chattanooga Avenue: This historic office building was originally used as offices for the Crowne Mills, but now serves as the headquarters for the Whitfield-Murray Historical Society. The archives are an area where you can also do research on local textile history. This building is open to the public Monday through Friday 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.
Dalton Freight Depot Visitors Bureau, 305 South Depot Street: Experience one of the historic buildings that once facilitated the textile trade, and enjoy a view of several historic textile buildings nearby. Here, you can pick up your Driving Trail brochure or get more information on the City. Their hours of operation are Monday through Saturday 9:00 am – 5:00 pm.
Hamilton House, 701 Chattanooga Avenue: This historic home, which features local chenille products and interprets textile industry history, was built by John and Rachel Hamilton around 1840. The Hamilton House is open to the public by appointment only.
Prater’s Mill, 5845 GA-2: Prater’s Mill, an 1855 grist mill, was restored in 1971 by a group of volunteers wanting to preserve the site for future generations. Enjoy a historic grist mill community that features an excellent collection of locally-produced chenille. The park is open daily from dawn to dusk and tours are available on the hour by appointment only.
Shaw Industries Research and Development Facility, 1010 VD Parrot Jr. Parkway: Shaw Industries supplies carpet, resilient, hardwood, laminate, tile and stone, synthetic turf, and other specialty products to residential and commercial markets worldwide. Tours are currently available by appointment only.
Crown Cotton Mill, 809 Chattanooga Avenue: This mill, which dates back to the 1880s, was Dalton’s first foray into the textile industry. Once a hub for the production of ducks, drills, and sheetings, the mill has been converted into an apartment complex and shopping center. Come eat, shop, and adventure in this fantastic piece of history!
Places to See
Many of the buildings which housed or were associated with this city’s textile industry still remain throughout the City. Take your own tour to visit these sites, but remember these are exterior views only:
Bedspread Boulevard: Also known as US Highway 41 and Peacock Alley. Look for buildings associated with the carpet and chenille industries, including the “spread shacks,” where women sold their tufted chenille products to travelers on this stretch of the Dixie Highway.
Boylston-Crown Cotton Mills/Elk Cotton Millsand Crown Mill Village, 1031 South Hamilton Street: Originally established as Elk Cotton Mills around 1910, this mill was built to produce weaving yarns. By the 1920s, investors from the northeast formed a partnership with the mills original, local, owners. Together, under the name Boylston-Crown, they expanded the mill and converted it into a producer of tire cord. Today, it has been converted into a storage facility. Walk or drive around the mill village for Crown Mill, located adjacent to the Hamilton House and the Crown Gardens and Archives.
Cabin Crafts Incorporated, 44177 Tibbs Bridge Road: This was the site of one of Dalton’s earlier, formally organized, chenille bedspread businesses. It was chosen by West Point Manufacturing, one of the giants of Georgia’s traditional textile industry, as its flagship company in the chenille business. Eventually, West Point Manufacturing/WestPoint Pepperell built a massive carpet/chenille manufacturing wing of their business. When WestPoint Pepperell sold their carpet division to Shaw Industries in the late 1980s, Shaw became the largest manufacturer of carpet in the world.
Crown Laundry and Dye Company, 426 North Thornton Avenue: This site was once a dyeing facility, one of the many industries which popped up to support and take advantage of Dalton’s booming chenille business. It has since been converted into a storage facility.
G.H. Rauschenberg Company/Shaw No. 1, 501 E Franklin Street: The owners of Ken-Rau and G.H. Rauschenberg were brothers in law. After their original business, in which they were partners, burned down, they both established their own businesses. G. H. Rauschenberg Company was yet another of Dalton’s earlier organized bedspread manufacturing businesses. It was also one of the first to manufacture chenille robes on a large scale. Over the years it was converted to produce carpet, being bought by a company from Columbus, Georgia in the early 1960s. It is now part of Shaw Industries’ No. 1 facility. To view the original facility, head to the corner of 1st Avenue and Calhoun Street.
Ken-Rau Incorporated, 912 East Morris Street: The owners of Ken-Rau and G.H. Rauschenberg were brothers in law. After their original business, in which they were partners, burned down, they both established their own operations. While Rauschenberg Co. pioneered chenille robe and carpeting production, Ken-Rau appears to have stuck with the tried-and-true chenille bedspread as its main product. It was no longer listed in textile sales directories by the 1950s, indicating that it was unable to remain competitive.
Lawtex Corporation, 200 Gaston Street: Opened in 1935 by Seymour Lorberbaum, a buyer of Dalton’s candlewick products from New York, Lawtex Corporation was a major manufacturer of chenille products by 1937. The company transitioned to the production of robes and carpet before settling on area rugs. It was sold to Spring Mills in 1979.
Rogers Dye and Finishing Company, 414 West Hawthorne Street: This is another example of a business that supported the main carpet and chenille industry in Dalton. Often time companies might not have the ability to bleach, dye, and finish their product. They would often send their goods to companies like Rogers to make the finished products.
World Carpet Mills: This company was active in the 1960s as Dalton’s chenille industry transitioned to the production of carpet. The facility is now owned and operated by one of the world’s largest flooring producers, Mohawk Industries.
Crown Cotton Mill. Photo courtesy: Whitfield Murray Historical Society
Chenille robe. Photo courtesy: Bandy Heritage Center
Carpet on conveyer. Photo courtesy: Shaw Industries, Inc.
Male worker doing yarn tubing. Photo courtesy: Shaw Industries, Inc.
Woman at machinery. Photo courtesy: Bandy Heritage Center
Two Chenille Spreads depicting peacocks outside of Prater's Mill. Photo courtesy: Janet Cochran
Crown Cotton Mill opened in Dalton in 1884 to produce duck and osnaburgs. The first large-scale cotton mill in this part of the state, by 1910, the company employed 650 workers, many of whom lived in mill village housing surrounding the brick mill. Crown Mill merged with Massachusetts-based West Boylston Manufacturing Company in 1925 to open Boylston Crown Mill in southeast Dalton.
Dalton is also considered the birthplace of the chenille industry. Catherine Evans Whitener began making and then selling hand-tufted bedspreads at the turn of the twentieth century. Her work was part of the handicraft revival blossoming in the southern Appalachian region at the time. Whitener and other local women used tufted yarn to create patterns on plain cotton sheets. North Georgia women began to sell bedspreads and other tufted products to tourists traveling to Florida along U.S. Highway 41, part of the Dixie Highway.
Also contributing to the burgeoning textile industry in this northwest Georgia city was the Westcott Mills, founded by Lamar Westcott in 1917. A Chattanooga native, Wescott studied yarns at the Philadelphia Textile Institution.
Westcott became a leader in the chenille industry by patenting a needle punch, which sped up the process of machine tufting and produced more intricate designs than single-needle tufting machines. Westcott used the needle punch to bring the production of chenille bedspreads into the Cabin Crafts factory he helped found in Dalton around 1931. This new tool revolutionized both the chenille and later carpet industries that developed in northwest Georgia.
Carpet production grew dramatically in this region from the 1950s onward with the rise of new technologies and factories. By the 1970s, the majority of the carpet companies in the United States were located around Dalton. Now, three of the four leading carpet companies in the country are based in Dalton: Shaw, Mohawk, and Beaulieu.