Gaston County, North Carolina (population 190,365), was first settled in the 1750s, but was not organized as a county until 1846. At about that time, several cotton mills were established, launching an industrial boom in the area. Other early industries included whiskey distilleries, mining, and smelting.
The county has 15 incorporated towns, the most of any county in North Carolina. Dallas was the first county seat, and a district of historic buildings still surrounds the original courthouse. The county seat was moved in 1909 to Gastonia, after the development of textile mills in that community made it the focus of the county's population and influence. Gastonia has also been designated a Preserve America Community.
In 2004, Gaston County partnered with the City of Gastonia and other public and private entities to hold a symposium and associated events to mark the 75th anniversary of the Loray Mill Strike. The Loray Mill was once the largest textile mill in the South, and the violent 1929 strike is famous in labor history.
In part, the symposium was designed to help people see the historic mill building in a new light, and to encourage popular support for a planned mixed-use redevelopment of the property. The Loray Mill is among the properties on an architectural heritage driving tour of the county developed by the Gaston County Historic Preservation Commission.
Residents and visitors can also learn more about the county's heritage at the Gaston County Museum of Art and History, located in the Hoffman Hotel (1852) in Dallas.
Designated a Preserve America Community in January 2005.