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News Release: 2/22/2023

Mountain Gateway Museum & Heritage Center
24 Water Street, Old Fort, NC  28762
Phone:  828-668-9259       Fax:  828-668-0041
Date: February 20, 2023                                                                    NEWS RELEASE
Press Contacts:  RoAnn Bishop, 828-668-9259                           For Immediate Release
OLD FORT, NC – Did you know the world’s largest tannery formerly operated in Old Fort?
Were you aware that renowned folklorist Bascom Lamar Lunsford once lived on Main Street? Or that Bill Haley & His Comets’ original bass player hailed from here? 
Surely you’ve heard about the town having the state’s first female police chief back in the 1970s or listened to your family’s stories about the old “helper” engines that used to help eastbound trains up the steep slope of Old Fort Mountain?
If, sadly, your answer to all of these questions is “no,” then you need to visit the Mountain Gateway Museum’s new photography exhibit, “A Peek Into the Past: Old Fort at 150.”
Opening this Thursday, Feb. 23, on the date of the town’s 150th anniversary, the free exhibit celebrates Old Fort’s sesquicentennial by looking at images of some of its outstanding people, places, institutions, and events during the past century and a half. 
The images are digitized photographs pulled from both public and personal collections, including those of Bill Nichols, Kim Clark, Shearon Cline, the Col. Daniel W. Adams family, the Peggy 
Silvers family, the McDowell County Public Library, the Historic Carson House, the Western Regional Archives at Oteen, and others. The exhibit also includes more than two dozen artifacts on loan from local residents and businesses.
“A Peek Into the Past” will remain open through Dec. 31, 2023. However, because of the number of historically significant photographs available, the 72 images on display at the exhibit’s opening will be replaced by another batch of photographs in July.
“It has been a privilege to work on this exhibit, and I’ve learned a lot in the process, but it also has been a difficult job deciding which images to use, as each one tells an interesting and historically important story,” said RoAnn Bishop, director of the Mountain Gateway Museum and curator of the exhibit. “That’s why I’m so glad we decided to display two separate groups of photographs to help celebrate Old Fort’s sesquicentennial this year.”
The Town of Old Fort, first incorporated as “Catawba Vale” on Jan. 25, 1872, was re-chartered as “Old Fort” by the North Carolina General Assembly on February 23, 1873. The name was inspired by the stockade that Samuel Davidson built alongside Mill Creek in the 1770s for early settlers’ protection from the Cherokee. By the American Revolution, Gen. Griffith Rutherford’s soldiers had converted the simple stockade into a militia fort. From there, Rutherford launched a brutal attack on Cherokee towns in western North Carolina in 1776.
The Mountain Gateway Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. Admission is free.
For more information about the exhibit, please contact RoAnn Bishop at the Mountain Gateway Museum at 828-668-9259 or or visit the museum’s website
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About Mountain Gateway Museum
A regional branch of the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh, the Mountain Gateway Museum & Heritage Center (MGM) is the westernmost facility in the NC Department of Natural & Cultural Resources’ Division of State History Museums. 
Nestled at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains along the banks of historic Mill Creek in downtown Old Fort (McDowell County), the museum uses artifacts, exhibitions, educational programs, living history demonstrations, and special events to teach people about the rich history and cultural heritage of the state’s mountain region, from its original inhabitants through early settlement and into the 20th century. 
As part of its education outreach mission, MGM also assists nonprofit museums and historic sites in 38 western NC counties with exhibit development & fabrication, genealogical research, photography archives, traveling exhibitions, and consultations. For more information, visit the museum’s website at or call 828-668-9259.
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Photo Caption/Cutline
This c. 1933 perspective of the Town of Old Fort looks north from the Union Tanning Co. after a disastrous fire there put hundreds of local people out of work. The disaster was so economically significant, the news ticker in New York City’s Times Square announced it. (Mountain Gateway Museum Collection.)