Cartersville City Hall is located at 1 North Erwin Street, Cartersville, GA 30120; phone: 770-387-5606.
Cartersville, the county seat of Bartow County, exists as it does today largely as the result of two major factors: its location in the Etowah Valley and transportation. The valley covers the lower half of the county, and its minerals, river, and soils make it amenable to both industry and agriculture. Location of the Western and Atlantic (W&A) railroad through the region in the 1850s also encouraged industry and commerce. From these forces, Cartersville grew to become a regional center for commerce, government, and industry.
The town of Cartersville was incorporated on February 1, 1850, as a part of Cass County (name later changed to Bartow County). The town was named for Farish Carter, an entrepreneur from Milledgeville who owned mills, steamboats, and a plantation. Cassville, not Cartersville, was the county seat until Cassville was completely destroyed in November 1864, and the seat of government was moved to Cartersville.
Railroad transportation first led to Cartersville's rise as a community. The W&A line began construction in 1838, and by 1850 through-train service was instituted. Cartersville was on the line between Chattanooga and Atlanta, two growing rail centers. In 1854, the W&A built a depot in Cartersville, constructed by John E. Jordan. This building was 40' X 124", constructed of brick, and had large arches with wooden sliding doors. Included as part of the depot was a passenger waiting room; a baggage, ticket, and freight office (combined); and a large warehouse space.
The Civil War directly affected Cartersville. After taking Atlanta, Sherman made the decision to cut his supply lines and march to the sea. At this point, in November 1864, his troops set fire to the depot, burning the roof and floor, but the bricks were not damaged too badly.
Completion of the War saw Cartersville rebuilding. In 1866, brick was added to the inside walls and a new floor and roof was constructed for the depot. In 1867, the two-story brick Lay's Building was constructed by M.C. Jackson. In 1871, the building was divided in two, with one side housing the Baker and Hall Hardware Company and the other the Baker and Hall Banking Company. During the next few years, a brick building was constructed on the corner of the public square and Cherokee Street which housed the Stokey and Williams Department Store.
By 1872, Cartersville had grown in size to a point where it was incorporated as a city. Industry began to locate in the city, as indicated by the existence of the W&A railroad car factory in Cartersville in 1873. At this point, a viable commercial district began to emerge. An 1873 newspaper lists businesses and professionals such as attorneys, dentists, cotton merchants, a cotton maker, a saddle maker, grocery stores, hardware stores, real estate agents, dry goods stores, and carriage and buggy stores. The year 1873 also saw the construction of the old Bartow County Courthouse (now Henshaw and Morgan Furniture Company), built at a cost of $20,000.
The 1880s saw continued growth in the commercial area, as more industries and a larger regional population was served. The Young and Mays Drug Store on West Main Street opened and has served as a pharmacy since that time. On its east exterior wall is located the first outdoor advertisement for Coca-Cola, painted in 1894. The original layer of paint was restored on the sign in the summer of 1989 and the wall has been exclusively reserved for Coca-Cola over the past 95 years.
By 1885, the East and West Railroad (E&W) of Alabama had constructed a second depot in Cartersville, north of the W&A. Serving for many years as the Seaboard Airline depot, this building stood until 1918. The W&A and E&W depots were the only focus of the town's public square until commercial establishments, which sold a variety of goods, began to surround the depots.
According to the 1885 Sanborn map, a livery stable and carriage house was constructed facing Wall Street. After 1909, the entire structure was used as a livery stable. In 1916, the front half of the structure was demolished, leaving the rear section of the building. An addition was made to the rear to face Gilder Street and the structure continued to be used as a livery stable. It is now referred to as the Gilder Street livery stable. The 1885 Sanborn map also shows numerous dry goods and grocery stores, several drug stores, a cabinet shop, a farm implement store, banks, and a saloon. Many of these buildings were two stories in height on the west side of the square (near the present-day Lays). Two hotels faced each other on opposite corners of Market street: the St. James and the Bartow House (present-day Hotel Davis). A map of Cartersville, dated 1887, shows the three-story, brick Bradley Building located on the corner of Cherokee Street and the public square. At the turn of the century or earlier, H.J. Halt operated the Imperial Saloon in the basement of the building. Patrons entered through the swinging doors from Cherokee Avenue (then Market Street).
During the 1890s, the Cartersville commercial district did not increase appreciable in numbers, but many of the merchants improved their buildings. One-story frame structures were often replaced by one and two-story brick buildings. This is especially true along the south edge of the district. Businesses also changed hands, with the Bartow Hotel renamed the Southland House, then the Majors Hotel, and then back to the Bartow Hotel by 1900. The St. James became known as the Hotel Shelman, with a kitchen garden located on the rear two-thirds of the its property. In addition, the Louisville & Nashville railroad (L&N) had taken over the W&A depot by 1895. Gardens and feed yards in the district, and houses one block away, demonstrate the small-town character of this commercial area as late as 1895.
Also by the 1890s, names associated with Cartersville commerce began to surface in the town. Aaron Knight opened Knight's Hardware in 1865, moving into their present building in 1899. They are known today as Knight's Mercantile, North Georgia's oldest hardware store. The Knights also owned a planing mill and lumber yard in Cartersville. Scheuer Brothers was established in 1878 by Moses Scheuer, a German immigrant. His brothers Isadore, Albert, Julius, and Mac later helped run this general merchandise store. Jackson's Furniture was established in 1895.