Monday, February 11, 2019

West Hill Chapel in Dalton, Georgia

The Forgotten Chapel: West Hill

West Hill Chapel sits in a quiet spot in West Hill Cemetery in Dalton, Georgia. It is a lovely little structure built in the American Craftsman style of architecture (inspired by English Arts and Crafts). The windows are gothic arches surrounded by cream-colored voissoirs, the stones surrounding each window. Similar trim is used for the cornerstones of the chapel. The diamond-shaped window panes have wavy, watery, old-style glass. Steep corner gables complete the classic look. The high-pitched roof is covered in heavy slate shingles.

Brief History of West Hill Chapel

The chapel was made of native mountain stone. It was built just before World War II. When the war came along, the chapel was abandoned. In fact, it was never consecrated. As time went on, the city began to use the old chapel for storage. They added the metal shed ~ a functional necessity at the time, but also a nasty eyesore. The building endured well, even in neglect ~ a testimony to its original excellent construction. The lantern-style light fixture (above right) turned up unexpectedly ~ a Dalton citizen, having saved it years ago, donated it to the restoration project. The chapel renovation has earned the city of Dalton a Preserve America Designation, awarded for historic preservation and education efforts. The chapel renovation was also featured in an issue of American Cemetery Magazine, a trade journal. The building has become a featured stop in recent cemetery tours that have been conducted by Whitfield-Murray Historical Society. The chapel was also rented out for weddings and other special events.

My Story...

The first time I saw West Hill Chapel, I thought, "What a shame!" It was sadly neglected, surrounded by bulldozers and overgrown with weeds. An ugly, utilitarian metal shed leaned up against one side. Even so, the architectural quality of the chapel was evident. It is one of the most attractive buildings in North Georgia. Located in Dalton, Georgia, it is built of native mountain stone from the surrounding Cohutta Mountains. The arts-and-crafts style architecture gives it both beauty and lasting historic significance. The stone masonry is impressive ~ large, square chunks of brown and rust-colored stone are set off by gray mortar. Gothic-shaped windows are trimmed in white limestone blocks and inset with diamond-shaped wavy glass panes that are criss-crossed with strips of lead.

"How did this little chapel come to be so neglected?" I wondered. Even in its deteriorated state, it served as an unexpected surprise to lovers of classic architecture, who happened to be strolling through West Hill Cemetery. West Hill, with it's quiet paved paths and tree-shaded landscape serves almost as much as a park to local citizens as a cemetery.

One day, while walking in West Hill Cemetery, I happened up on the chapel and found it open. Some men were standing inside it, looking over the interior. "It's a shame this building can't be put to better use than as a tool shed," I said. "I wonder if it couldn't be restored?" I soon learned that, in fact, the chapel was about to be renovated. I had, by accident, run into the man who was about to save the little chapel from becoming a complete ruin.

Renovation of West Hill Chapel

Terry Christie, one of Dalton's aldermen, had discovered the lovely old chapel on his own. He, too, had wondered why the chapel had been forgotten. A bit of research showed that the city of Dalton already owned West Hill Chapel. Christie, a lover of architecture, saw the potential of the chapel. He also saw that the slate roof was in danger of collapsing under its own weight if not preserved immediately. Christie made sure that that didn't happen. He immediately began raising funds for the West Hill Chapel renovation.

Restoring the chapel was no easy or inexpensive task. The mortar had to be repointed. The roof needed support. Interior trim had to be repainted. Throughout the restoration, the integrity of the original arts-and-crafts architectural style had to be maintained. One surprise came when the original light fixture for the chapel turned up unexpectedly. Years before the renovation, a man who lived near the cemetery had spotted the lantern-shaped lamp in a pile of scrap iron and wood that was being discarded from the chapel. Construction workers gave him the scrap metal. He had held onto the light fixture for many years. Later, when he learned that West Hill Chapel was to be restored, he offered to give the lamp to Christie, who gladly accepted the donation. Both men were glad to see the lamp put back into place. It now hangs in its rightful place, in the center of the chapel ceiling. (West Hill Chapel is located in historic West Hill Cemetery on West Cuyler Street in Dalton, Georgia.)

The photos below are in no particular order. The day we met, Mr. Christie kindly allowed me to go in and enjoy the chapel for an hour or so, and take all the pictures I wanted. I believe I was still using my ancient Honeywell-Pentax camera at that time. Everything had to be manually set, and I am no expert at photography. These are among the usable photos I took that day.

West Hill Cemetery has paved roads that local citizens use for walking paths. The Confederate section has a monument listing soldiers who died in local hospitals during the Civil War. General location: The front door of the chapel is on the large, gabled end, with the round window above it. If you stand facing that door, the Confederate cemetery is to your right, about 50 feet away. Still facing the main chapel door, look to your left, up the hill: that section has some of the oldest graves in the cemetery and some interesting statues.

Some of Dalton's famous (and infamous) citizens are buried at West Hill Cemetery. Whitfield-Murray Historical Society occasionally offers tours and can provide more information on the people buried there. For lovers of classic arts-and-crafts architecture or those who are interested in the craft of stone masonry, it's well worth stopping by the cemetery just to see the chapel.

The chapel is not open, but one may view the exterior. It is located in West Hill Cemetery in Dalton, Georgia. Here is a link to West Hill Chapel on Google Maps.
Short URL:

According to the city's website, West Hill Chapel can be leased for events. The lease is available on the City of Dalton website. (This information is current as of February 11, 2019).

Contact information:

City of Dalton
P. O. Box 1205
Dalton, Georgia 30722
Phone: 706-278-9500
Fax: 706-278-8245

I am providing here a deep link to the West Hill Chapel page on the City of Dalton website, but in my experience, these links sometimes break as the government sites update or change hosts.

This article was first published years ago on my main site, Southern Muse ( I'm in the process of migrating the site to a new host, so I've moved most of the content to my various blogs. This post has been edited slightly from the original article, which covered several pages. 

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