Nearly 200 years ago, after the removal of the Cherokee Indians in the area, a small group of families settled in what’s known today as Cartersville, Georgia. Since that time, this city on the northwest edge of metro Atlanta has experienced major evolution in various industries—all of which has culminated in the Cartersville of today, a quirky-cool Southern destination known for unique must-see attractions and museums where the walls really do talk.
From stories of Native People who revered the land to the lore of pioneer settlers seeking a place to call their own, to the more modern-day struggles and achievements of African Americans emboldened by the conviction of their character, Cartersville offers a rich tapestry of ingenuity and exploration. With so many captivating stories to experience, it’s no wonder that Cartersville is a beloved spot for history lovers. Come for a wholly unique experience filled with education one-of-a-kind attractions and leave with a greater appreciation for the world we live in today.
Here are a few Cartersville must-experience locations that history lovers absolutely adore:
Saddle Up to The Booth Western Art Museum
The Booth Museum, as the locals call it, is a love letter to America’s origins. It houses the largest permanent exhibition space for Western art in the United States and is the second largest art museum in Georgia.
While The Booth Museum has numerous galleries devoted to the American West, two special galleries are especially unparalleled experiences that each allow visitors to see America’s Story from a distinct perspective. The Carolyn & James Millar Presidential Gallery contains a portrait and a personal signed document from every American President. The letters exemplify tones from conversational and chatty to truly dire and discuss a variety of topics, each providing a bit more insight to the personalities of our leaders of the free world through the ages. Another captivating collection is the War is Hell Gallery. Here, visitors can immerse themselves in the American Civil War with paintings depicting major battles in chronological order as they took place for a sobering glimpse at the perils and emotional toils of war.
While you’re exploring all that The Booth Museum has to offer, be sure to make your way to their newest temporary exhibit: “Through the Years: Kenny Rogers’ Photographs of America.” We all knew and loved him as “The Gambler,” but did you know Kenny Rogers had a keen eye for depicting North America and its multi-faceted people through photography? From celebrity portraits to photos of landscapes captured as he traversed the United States on tour, this must-see collection displays the beauty and complexity of our country through Kenny Rogers’ eyes.
Experience Living History in Downtown Cartersville
Downtown Cartersville offers a wealth of shops and eateries sure to delight, but it also provides peeks into days of the past. Main Street on the corner of Young Brothers’ Pharmacy is home to one very significant Only in Cartersville treasure. The World’s First Outdoor Painted Wall Sign for Coca-Cola has been authenticated by The Coca-Cola Company and is one of the most-photographed spots in the city. Perfect for an Insta-worthy pic, this first ever outdoor painted wall advertisement for the beloved soda brand dates back to 1894. When you post your affinity for Coke in Cartersville on IG, be sure to use #OnlyinCartersville!
Just a few steps down Main Street takes you steps back in time with the 4 Way Lunch, a Cartersville dining mainstay since 1931. Fun fact: The 4 Way Lunch has been serving tasty breakfast and mid-day meals all these years without a telephone! While the 4 Way Lunch provides a nostalgic appeal and delicious eats with its cozy 14-seat counter, their separate entrance and service counter in the back known as “the Colored entrance” during Jim Crow era is a staunch reminder of how just how far we’ve come and how far we have to go in the pursuit of true equality.
In keeping with the quest for civil rights, Downtown Cartersville is also home to the 27th Bench by the Road, a site of cultural significance that exists as part of the The Bench by the Road Project. The Bench by the Road Project is a memorial history and community outreach initiative of the Toni Morrison Society. The name “Bench by the Road” is taken from Morrison’s remarks in a 1989 interview with World Magazine where she noted the absences of historical markers that commemorate the lives of Africans who were enslaved and how her fifth novel Beloved was written to serve that purpose. In the interview, she said, “There is no place you or I can go, to think about or not think about, to summon the presences of, or recollect the absences of slaves . . . There is no suitable memorial, or plaque, or wreath, or wall, or park, or skyscraper lobby. There’s no 300-foot tower, there’s no small bench by the road. There is not even a tree scored, an initial that I can visit or you can visit in Charleston or Savannah or New York or Providence or better still on the banks of the Mississippi. And because such a place doesn’t exist . . . the book had to.” The Bench by the Road Project’s mission is to remedy that absence of African historical markers Toni Morrison explained in her interview by placing benches and plaques at relevant sites commemorating significant moments, individuals, and locations within the history of the African Diaspora. Cartersville’s Bench by the Road is located at the Cartersville Train Depot and honors the memory, sacrifice, and service of African American railway workers and the importance of the great Black migration to and from the South.
Explore Cartersville’s Indian Mounds
There’s something especially sacred and even a bit mystifying about Cartersville’s Etowah Indian Mounds. This major Mississippian Period Cultural Center pays homage to the thousands of Native Americans who once called the area home. Not only does this historical attraction serve as a testament to the life of the Etowah Indian tribe, but it is also one of the most intact historical sites of its kind. The largest mound stands over 63 feet high and covers a whopping three acres. The Etowah grounds also boast an archeological museum dedicated to interpreting life as the Native American tribe from long ago knew it. Just beyond the mounds, you’ll find the Etowah River, a source of nourishment for the Native Americans of the region. The original fish traps used by the Etowah Indians are a major draw of this site as they tie the past and the present together. Beyond the mounds lies the Etowah River where original Indian fish traps can be viewed.
To go even further back in time, be sure to check out the nearby Leake Mounds Interpretive Trail. This site was a major cultural hub during the prehistoric Middle Woodland period, which predates the Etowah Indian Mounds site. This interpretive trail includes 18 interactive markers along a 1.5-mile trail, each with QR codes allowing visitors to access additional information about the site right on their phones.
Chronicles of the Past in Cartersville
In Cartersville, history is treasured and the tales are always epic. Create a bit of history all your own by making memories exploring and experiencing this one-of-a-kind destination. To discover comfortable accommodations and other unforgettable ways to spend your time in Cartersville, click here!