Mom! Mom! Look at that arrowhead! Your child will scream these words as you approach the quaint village of Old Fort. Why? Because in the middle of town, there is a hand-carved, 14 foot rose granite arrowhead atop a 15 foot river rock and concrete base. It creates quite an impression!
Old Fort is a historic town, lots of Native American and railroad history are woven into the fabric of the town and its 900 +/- residents. It’s not Mayberry, but it’s close! Walk down Main Street and you’ll see neighbors catching up on local news, Mayor Norton won’t be too far away if you need him and if you’re looking for a certain tool, stop in the old-timey hardware store.
For a tiny town, we have two museums…Mountain Gateway Museum and the Old Fort Train Station and Museum. These are within walking distance of one another, again, right downtown! The depot was renovated between 2005-2006 and today includes the railroad museum, the Old Fort Chamber of Commerce and the McDowell County Tourism Authority’s Visitor Center. Look for the brightly colored yellow building with the red roof…and a giant arrowhead out front!
Mountain Gateway Museum is a great place to take the family! Admission is free. During the 2009 summer, their public garden project surrounds the concept of a “time to plant and a time to pluck.” It’ a division of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources and is housed in a 1930s WPA period stone building on the banks of Mill Creek. Mill Creek is a great stocked, trout stream! Interior and exterior exhibits interpret pioneeer-era history of western North Carolina. The name “Old Fort” is derived from Davidson’s Fort, built here in 1776 by locals and troops left behind by General Griffith Rutherford.
Stroll along Main Street and you’ll also find four types of restaurants, an arts gallery, model train shop, antique store and more. Downtown is also part of a bicycle route taking you to a spectacular hiking/cycling trail along the Swannanoa Gap, Point Lookout Trail. Check out details under “hiking and waterfall trails.” If you’re a history buff, click on “history” for more Revolutionary and Civil War-era facts and details.