Discover Our Lodging near Black Mountain
“You come to nature with all her theories, and she knocks them all flat. ~ Pierre Auguste Renoir
Escape the hustle and bustle and find serenity two miles inside Pisgah National Forest at Inn on Mill Creek in the North Carolina mountains. We’re not your typical B&B. Ten minutes off of Interstate 40 is a scenic drive curving through western North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest that brings you to our inn, where you’re completely surrounded by the calmingly beautiful scenery of the rhododendron-filled forest (our rhododendron blooms white in July, by the way). Our neighbors have names like Indigo Bunting, Carolina Chickadee, Swainson’s Warbler, and Whip-Poor-Will, and so we’re also a site — one of the few private properties, in fact — on the North Carolina Birding Trail, Mountain Region.
Two laurel-covered ridges inside Pisgah National Forest, Bernard Mountain and Horse Ridge, flank our seven private acres to the east and west, respectively. On the Horse Ridge side of the property is our orchard, with its view of Green Knob and its fire tower on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
A quarter-mile from the south end of the grounds are two Forest Service access roads, which are vehicle-free, unpaved pathways into the National Forest. Additionally, the inn is a short drive from miles of walking, biking and hiking trails, as well as Chimney Rock State Park, Biltmore Estate and Asheville, shopping and dining in Black Mountain, Montreat College and Warren Wilson College, the entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway, more than a dozen local microbreweries, art galleries, and more. Use the inn as your base of operations for your vacation and see more things to do on our Area Activities page.
Looking for a getaway where you can do “a whole lot of nothing”? We can help with that, too. At Inn on Mill Creek, we strive for a relaxed, casual atmosphere. After breakfast, if you want to stick around and relax on the property, you can enjoy:
- A comfortable, private room where you can take it easy during the day and rest your head at night [pick your room]
- A two-story Great Room with floor-to-ceiling windows and plenty of comfy couches, plus a 5’x9′ projection HD-TV
- Free Wi-Fi
- A movie library and board games
- A library loft with books that you can borrow during your stay
- Outdoor decks with plenty of seating, and a grill available for guest use
- A large fire pit
- Seven acres of grounds, including a fruit orchard and garden spaces, great for casual strolls
Inn on Mill Creek is situated at 2,300 feet above sea level, so you’ll experience fresh and clean mountain air, several months of flowering plants in spring and summer, a six-week fall season that will knock your socks off, and winters that typically arrive around Christmas and depart with the arrival of daffodils in March.
A Little Bit of Local History
Early American History: The land around Inn on Mill Creek was home to Cherokee and Catawba Tribes until the Revolutionary War era, when settlers moved westward from what is now the town of Old Fort (the westernmost outpost of the American colonies). The small towns around us feature museums and points along hiking trails that showcase this period of our nation’s history. In addition to the Revolutionary War, Civil War history is also present in historical markers at the Swannanoa Gap near our exit off the Interstate, where skirmishes took place near the end of the war. You can also find tombstones of unknown Confederate and Union soldiers along the ‘stagecoach road’ off the Point Lookout Trail near the inn.
The Railroad Brings Big Changes: By the late 1800s, the area’s railroad, owned by the Southern Railway Company, still went no further west than Old Fort, and passengers and cargo had to be transported along the stagecoach road to reach rail lines in Asheville and points west. Colonel Alexander Boyd Andrews, an engineer and then Southern Railway Vice President, successfully lobbied the North Carolina legislature to authorize money and, more importantly, prison labor, to help push the railroad to the Swannanoa Gap, now known as Ridgecrest. The treacherous terrain required 13 miles of track, with seven tunnels, connecting Old Fort to Ridgecrest. There are no railroad crossings along the stretch of rail near inn, only trestles and tunnels. Nowadays, the trains pull freight on an irregular schedule, and ‘singing rails’ can be heard as they round the curves of what is known as the Loops of Old Fort.
The Andrews Geyser: 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 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 bears his name. 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.
The Andrews Geyser remains in this 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 our Deck House is on the site of the former Andrews’ Geyser caretaker’s cabin.
The Story of the Inn
George and Ruth Shrode of Florida bought seven acres of private property in the 1970s, renovated the former Andrews Geyser caretaker’s cabin, planted an orchard across the road, and put in a swimming pool. They also worked with local residents and the town of Old Fort to refurbish the Andrews Geyser, which had fallen into disrepair after passenger rail ended in the 1960s. The Geyser was rededicated in 1976 (coincidentally on the day Innkeeper Brigette was born). Around 1980, the Shrodes built what is now the Inn’s beautiful Main House, with rough hewn cedar ceilings, a commercial kitchen for Ruth (an avid cook) and plenty of space for their children and grandchildren to enjoy.
In the late 1990s, the home was bought by the Carillon family, who turned the private home into a four-room Bed & Breakfast, which included converting the swimming pool into a perennial garden. The Carillons expanded the B&B in 2001, adding three rooms to the renovated Deck House. Dave and Brigette Walters bought the Inn on Mill Creek in early 2007, brought along the now-popular innpugs, Csaba and Bugsy, and have been sharing the property with guests ever since. Their improvements include renovations and upgrades to several guest rooms, the addition of a walking labyrinth and expanded garden spaces. The orchard is also under ongoing rehabilitation, with the plan to add muscadine grapes and a Monarch Butterfly milkweed and wildflower field.