IF YOU GO
* What: Grand opening for renovated Dalton freight depot
* When: Oct. 31
* What: Ribbon-cutting and celebration, family activities, music, food
Source: Dalton Convention and Visitor's Bureau
To rent event space at the depot, contact Convention and Visitors Bureau sales manager Natasha Colkmire at 800-331-3258 or visit www.VisitDaltonGA.com.
DALTON, Ga. -- From inside the newly renovated Southern Railway freight depot, it's easy to picture workers in the early 1900s loading cotton and other outgoing freight onto trains.
The 5,106 square-foot building, located off Cuyler Street, was renovated to preserve its historic elements.
Those include 12 wooden dock doors and the original interior and exterior brick, said Andy Carlson of Carlson-Jones Architects, who drew the plans for the restoration.
What couldn't be preserved was re-created to match the original architecture, such as the pinewood floor, he said.
Renovations will be complete in mid-September, said City Public Works Director Benny Dunn. The depot will serve as the city's welcome center, with offices for the Dalton Convention and Visitors Bureau and Downtown Dalton Development Authority at the north end and a large community space at the south end.
"I think it (the depot) is going to be a real focal point to downtown," Mr. Dunn said. "(With) all of the streetscape work we've done downtown, this is just kind of the jewel in the crown."
Mr. Dunn said the city started work this spring, but the project was years in the making.
Norfolk Southern donated the property around 2001, and the city received a $250,000 federal grant for the project through the Georgia Department of Transportation a few years ago, he said.
A freight depot restoration committee was created in September 2008 because "the project had sat idle for a long time," said John Davis, who was chairman of the committee.
Mr. Dunn said the city spent about $600,000 to complete the project.
Mr. Davis said the building will include display cases with artifacts from Dalton's past, including the Civil War and the history of the railroad and carpet industries.
Kay Phillips, marketing assistant for the Dalton Convention and Visitors Bureau, said she's working to find items such as train-related and Dalton-specific souvenirs for the depot gift shop.
The depot also will serve as a gathering spot for train viewing, officials said.
Mr. Dunn said two major rail lines -- Norfolk Southern and CSX -- converge and run side-by-side through downtown. The depot features an observation deck, and plans are to add an observation tower in the future.
When the project started, Mr. Dunn said, he wasn't sure how it would turn out because the abandoned building had suffered years of abuse.
"Now we've just got a really great asset for the city of Dalton," he said.
Dalton's other surviving depot is off King Street and was renovated years ago as a restaurant.