Today, Dunwoody, Georgia, is known as an urban center for dining and premier shopping near Atlanta, anchored by Perimeter Mall, but the area officially recognized as the city of Dunwoody didn’t exist until December 2008, when Dunwoody was officially incorporated following a community-led movement.
Although not formally recognized as a city before then, residents in this area have always identified themselves as living in "Dunwoody" — a place with a distinctive history separate from other areas and cities in DeKalb County.
An Early Center of Commerce
Dunwoody’s roots go back hundreds of years, but even from its earliest days, Dunwoody, GA, has been a center of commerce. The Cherokee Indian tribe of the Creek Confederation first inhabited the area that is now Dunwoody, largely because of its proximity to the Chattahoochee River. It was the largest and busiest trading center in the vicinity. By 1820, Cherokee farms dotted the area around the Chattahoochee, and white settlers began to arrive soon thereafter, creating homesteads and expanding the area’s population.
Shaped by Mill & Rail
Charles Archibald Alexander Dunwoody (Dunwoody namesake, 1828-1905) was the son of John Dunwoody (also spelled Dunwody), one of the founders of the Roswell Manufacturing Company mills in neighboring Roswell, Georgia. By 1853, area had two cotton mills, employed about 300 people and was the largest cotton factory complex in North Georgia.
A railroad between Roswell and Atlanta was soon built, used to transport much-needed mill products to Atlanta during the Civil War and first linking the Dunwoody area to Atlanta. Much of that line was destroyed during the war, and after the fighting ended, Charles Dunwoody decided to build a new home near what it now Chamblee-Dunwoody Road and Spalding Drive.
A new railroad, the Roswell Railroad, was built to run between Roswell and Chamblee with a stop in Dunwoody, carrying produce from Dunwoody and fabric from the mills in Roswell. Dunwoody soon developed as a crossroads community (Chamblee-Dunwoody, Mt. Vernon and Nandina Road) and continued to grow and prosper even after the railroad shut down in 1921.
Today, people can visit several historic sites in Dunwoody, including the city’s oldest building, the Ebenezer Primitive Baptist Church, which was built in 1829. The still-active church is home to a well-preserved cemetery where many of the founding fathers of Dunwoody are buried. Visitors can also browse through the Cheek-Spruill Farmhouse (1906), Swancy Farmhouse (1889) and Railroad Section Gang House (1880).