Looking for Small Town, Old Time Charm in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains?
Old Fort and Black Mountain, just east of Asheville, offer the genuine small town, old time charm that is so hard to find in today’s world.
The two towns are located on opposite sides of Old Fort Mountain off Interstate 40. (Black Mountain is at Exit 64; Old Fort at Exits 72 and 73.)
Old Fort is named for the original “old fort” that was established there prior to the Revolutionary War, called “Davidson’s Fort.” The mountain ridge between Old Fort and Black Mountain was at that time the boundary between land available for immigrant settlement to the east and Cherokee territory to the west. After the war, during which the Cherokee sided with their British trading partners, the land west of that divide was opened to settlement.
Things to See and Do in Old Fort:
- Old Fort Train Depot, Main Street. Visit the railroad exhibit, including a model that depicts the difficult construction of the Western NC Railroad through the Blue Ridge in 1879.
- Mountain Gateway Museum, 102 Water Street. This state-owned museum features exhibits on pioneer life, including two authentic log cabins. The creekside amphitheater is a site of frequent music and other heritage programs. There is on-site picnicking, tourist information, and a regional history video.
- Historic Carson House, Marion. The Carson House is rich with pioneer and Civil War history, and was reputedly the site of a duel and a visit from Davy Crockett.
- Davidson’s Fort. Now under development, Davidson’s Fort will provide an historic park complete with a replica of the 1780s fort and a site for military reenactments
- Appalachian Artisan Society and Gallery, 48 East Main Street. This artisans gallery offers a wide selection of handmade items including fine art, pottery, woodworking, fiber art, handcrafts and more
Black Mountain developed as a small farming community populated by immigrant settlers after the Revolutionary War. With the coming of the railroad in 1879, many new visitors from the Piedmont and Low Country discovered the cool, mild climate and scenic beauty that lay beyond the Blue Ridge. Black Mountain became a popular tourist destination and remains so today. Many of the brick buildings in the Historic District were built in the 1920s after a fire devastated the original downtown area.
Things to See and Do in Black Mountain:
- Black Mountain Visitor Center, 201 E. State St. A great “first stop” for information about this small town and surrounding attractions.
- Black Mountain Center for the Arts Gallery, 225 W. State St. Displays monthly art exhibits, plus has many class offerings.
- Swannanoa Valley Museum, 223 W. State St., Buncombe County’s primary museum of general local history, with a collection that interprets the development of Western North Carolina along the pathway that is the Swannanoa Valley.
- Old Depot and Caboose, Sutton Ave.. This craft outlet and railroad exhibit in the carefully restored 100-year-old train depot serves as an educational resource as well. It sponsors scholarships to assist artisans from Western North Carolina to further study within their field and works with five area school’s arts programs.
- Historic downtown Black Mountain. Quaint and quirky are words that have been used to describe the colorful collection of shops and restaurants in this small town.
In nearby Montreat:
- Ben Long Fresco, Chapel of the Prodigal, one of the 13 frescoes painted by Benjamin F. Long III on the Ben Long Fresco Trail.
- Presbyterian Heritage Center. A rich collection filled with artifacts and exhibits about the history of Montreat, the Presbyterian Church, and many changing exhibits related to these histories.
Contacts for accommodations, restaurants, and shopping:
Black Mountain Chamber of Commerce
McDowell County Chamber of Commerce
McDowell County Tourism
Blue Ridge Mountain Host (Central mountain region)