The Tunnel Hill Heritage Center Museum is both an important landmark to the Dalton-Whitfield area and a significant draw for tourism. The historic Western & Atlantic Railroad tunnel was built by hand from 1848 to 1850 alongside The Clisby Austen House, an antebellum farmhouse used during the Civil War as an army field hospital and briefly housed generals John Bell Hood and William T. Sherman. The 1,477 foot long tunnel was the final link in the railroad connecting Chattanooga to Atlanta and became known for being a key location during “The Great Locomotive Chase”. In addition to the site’s historical importance, the location was also used in 3 Hollywood films including Godzilla: King of Monsters (2019), From A Whisper to A Scream (1987) starring Vincent Price and My Brother’s War (2005).
Since the museum has been open for guided tours, the historical site has seen visitors from across the nation and abroad. The Dalton Convention & Visitors Bureau reports that in 2019 the museum had 6,330 visitors total – an increase of 332 visitors from 2018. In addition, the satisfactory survey score from visitors for the year averaged 4.91 points out of a possible 5, which is consistent with previous averages.
Tourism is an essential part of economic growth and development for cities across the country. During a seminar for National Travel & Tourism Week in 2019, Dr. Steve Morse of Reinhardt University noted that each of the 39,995 households in Whitfield County saves $351 in state and local taxes because of the revenue generated by visitors to our hotels, restaurants and local attractions like the Tunnel Hill Heritage Museum.
“The updates we’re making to our 2020 programming will enhance the overall visitor experience. Our goal is to make sure guests of any age will learn more about our region’s history at the Tunnel Hill Heritage Center,” said, Margaret Thigpen, Director of Tourism.
With the positive feedback and growth seen in the previous year, the Dalton Convention & Visitors Bureau is looking forward to further developments in 2020.