Like many western North Carolina towns, Old Fort's railroad history is an important part of local culture. With the arrival of the Western North Carolina Railroad, tourists discovered Old Fort's beauty and cooler summer temperatures. The town's first railroad depot, Henry's Station and its first hotel, Round Knob Hotel were constructed and Old Fort became a tourism destination.
Unfortunately, both Henry's Station and Round Knob Hotel burned to the ground and Old Fort's current depot was built in 1881. Your eye will be drawn to the brightly colored yellow building and red roof! Inside, you'll find a small railroad museum. Outside, positioned in front of the depot, is the landmrk Old Fort Arrowhead. The 14 foot, rose granite arrowhead sits on top of a river stone base with a description honoring the peace made in 1930 by the two Native American tribes, Cherokee and Catawba.
Another Old Fort landmark is Andrews Geyser. It was created by the owners of Round Knob Hotel as a featured attraction, to entertain rail passengers as they ascended/descended Old Fort Mountain, just before their arrival at Henry's Station. Unfortunately, following the hotel's destruction, the geyser was neglected. However, it has been relocated and resurrected! Learn more about its history during Railroad Day.
Mountain Gateway Museum and Heritage Center is a state operated museum, located at the intersection of Catawba Avenue and Water Street. Museum staff created displays and contributed artifacts found inside the depot museum. The museum also hosts an annual, family-friendly festival honoring the town's railroad history. Featured activities include musical performances, kids' activities, local authors, historians, railroad work cars, a pump car and displays. Railroad items will be for sale and food vendors are on site. Stop by between 10:00 am until 4:00 pm, free admission!