Archives Month: Andrews Geyser

Contributed by Sarah Downing

This man-made landmark, found in the McDowell County town of Old Fort, was constructed in 1885 on the site of the Round Knob Lodge, a fashionable hostelry in operation at that time. It served to mark the entrance of the Blue Ridge Mountains and was visible to rail passengers both east- and westbound. The unique feature was created by damming a small stream, which was connected via a pipeline. Because the water source was higher in elevation, gravity created the geyser effect.

Andrews Geyser

Andrews Geyser circa 1940, Blue Ridge Heritage Area Scrapbook, WRA

The geyser was active for a number of years but fell into a state of disrepair after the lodge burned in 1903. Around 1910, while on a railroad trip through the mountains, New Yorker George F. Baker noticed the geyser was no longer in operation. A man of means, Baker petitioned the Southern Railway System and offered to bring the geyser back to working order and to name it Andrews Geyser to recognize his friend Col. Alexander Boyd Andrews of Raleigh, who served as the first vice president of the Southern Railway Company. It turned out that Baker was unable to secure the same easements to procure a water source, so Andrews Geyser was relocated to a spot some 200 feet to the north.

The new and improved geyser became a popular spot for sight-seeing and picnicking. However, it suffered neglect after rail service was discontinued in the area. In the early ‘70s, local residents rallied. A 2-acre parcel that contained the geyser was deeded to the town of Old Fort, and a fund was created for its restoration. On May 6, 1976, the refurbished Andrews Geyser resumed its festive spray. That same year it was recognized by the North Carolina Highway Historical Marker program.

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