North Carolina-Andrew’s Geyser-July 17

North Carolina People, Places, and Things-July 17

I am the dad to five adult children. As they were growing up I attempted to remind them they were special and to implore them to learn something new. My goal was to do that daily.

In 2016 my goal is to learn something new daily on the people, places, and things that make North Carolina special. Everyday this year I am doing a post on what I have learned new.

Sometimes it is good just to read someone else’s blog on North Carolina to learn something new. I did not realize that the town of Old Fort, NC had something called Andrew’s Geyser and it is not functioning because of the drought in Western NC.

The entire blog post on Old Fort is below and it is from a mom with four kids who calls her blog the redeemingthread

North Carolina’s Old Fort

In 1885, a gravity-forced geyser was constructed to mark the railroad gateway to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Once occupied by a well known hotel with visitors on their way through the Swannanoa Gap to the west.

Photo depicts the geyser in 1890.

andrew's geyser 1890

Photo depicts the geyser today along with historical marker.

Economic conditions led the railroad to cease upkeep of Andrews Geyser in the early 1970s, soon after which the pipeline broke in pieces, the basin filled with mud, and the cove became overgrown. In 1975 the town of Old Fort asked the railroad for the property so it could be reclaimed, and the Southern Railroad Co. complied. In May 1976 a restored Andrews Geyser and its surrounding area were opened to the public. The lake that supplies the modern-day geyser’s water belongs to the pond at the Inn on Mill Creek (shown below).

Inn on Mill Creek

A resort hotel called the Round Knob was built by the railroad company and included a prominent fountain as a tribute to the workers who had died building the railroad. In order to get water for the manmade “geyser”, a dam was built to create a water reservoir and cast iron pipe was laid along two miles, to the fountain, where gravity (approx. 500 feet of elevation change) and pressure sent the water shooting 80 feet in the air. In 1903, an ember from a train burned down the Round Knob. The ‘Fathers of Old Fort‘ didn’t want to lose the hotel and the geyser, so in 1911, a wealthy New Yorker and friend of Colonel Andrews, George Fisher Baker, rescued the geyser.

Mr. Baker (below) was one of the original founders of what is now Citibank and one of the wealthiest individuals of his time.


He was also a philanthropically-minded man. For example, he paid for his son’s alma mater, Harvard, to build a business school, and the university’s library shown below bears his name.

baker library harvard

Even though he used his great deal of wealth for various good deeds, he did not “toot his own horn” so to speak, and many of his projects were often announced in the press with very little fanfare or weren’t noted at all, other than in historical documents. One of these little-mentioned good deeds included fully financing the purchase of land around the geyser in Old Fort, North Carolina, which he enjoyed seeing on his train trips through the mountains. He had the geyser relocated a short distance across the creek, where it was redesigned, deeded to the town of Old Fort, and named in honor of Mr. Baker’s good friend, Colonel Andrews who is shown in a photo from McDowell County library.

colonel andrews

The Andrews Geyser remains in the same spot today, now part of a public park bordered by Mill Creek and owned by the historic town of Old Fort. Inn on Mill Creek property, now surrounded by the protected lands of Pisgah National Forest, is situated two miles north, at the site of the dam, still-working valve and water reservoir/pond, and the Inn on Mill Creek  is on the site of the former Andrews’ Geyser caretaker’s cabin.


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