Did You Know...
Highlands is located
at an average elevation of 4100 ft. on a three and a half
mile wide and five miles long plateau 130 miles northeast
of Atlanta, GA and 80 miles west of Ashville?
The Communications Center
Pool Table in
Highlands Inn was established in 1880
The high plateau on which Highlands stands remained
remote during the early days of Macon County's
history. Samuel Truman Kelsey and Clinton Carter
Hutchinson of Reno County, Kansas selected the plateau
for the development of a new town. They arrived at the
site of their new town on February 1875, purchased 839
acres and began development and promotion of the area.
It was to be called Kelsey's Plateau but the name was
soon changed to Highlands.
Joseph Halleck built Highlands Inn in 1880 as the
first hotel in Highlands, known as Highlands House. In
1883 Joseph Fitts bought the inn and was running it
when the Moccasin War took place in 1885. In 1886 John
Jay and Mary Chapin Smith were the recipients of the
Inn, a wedding present, from Mary Chapin's aunt, Eliza
Wheaton. During this era the Inn was known as the
Highlands House and fondly referred to as Smith House.
Circus comes to Highlands,
One of the earliest photographs of the Inn shows
bewildered guests gazing over the dusty, earthen Main
Street as a group of elephants calmly walked by. It
was all part of a visiting circus that somehow made it
up the mountain trail. Also, included in all known
photographs of the inn is the Maple tree on the corner
of 4th & Main Street. This tree is known to
Highlanders as the "Signal" tree as it is the first
tree to begin the fall color.
The Inn became known as Highlands Inn around 1925
after Frank Cook purchased it. Miss Helen Major, a
Canadian by birth, bought the Inn in 1969. She lived
in the inn (in the room now named "Miss Majors") and
ran it full time. Miss Majors had a passion for
popcorn and to this day you can occasionally smell the
unmistakable aroma of popcorn.
Sometime in the 1970's the inn was renovated and
enlarged on the back to create fourteen more rooms. In
1989 Rip and Pat Benton bought the inn. They began an
The history of the Inn was researched and was restored
as closely as possible to the "Country Manor" it once
was. There are antique furnishings, colonial paints,
wall coverings, as well as stenciling by a master
stenciling artist. In 1991 the Highlands Inn was
listed to the National Registry of Historic Places.
The new millennium brought new owners with deep roots
in Highlands. In the year
2000 Sabrina and Bill Hawkins,
bought the Highlands Inn. The Hawkins family was among
the original settlers of Highlands. Bill's great grandfather,
Alfred Hawkins, relocated from Ohio to and settled
the wilderness south of Highlands, known as Horse
Cove. He became the areas first doctor.
Click Here to Read about Alfred Hawkins.
In 2005 Highlands Inn celebrated its 125th anniversary
with a gala fundraiser for the Highlands Historical
In the winter of 2006 the stage was removed from the
theater room and the space was beautifully renovated
to become The Highlands room, Highlands premier
banquet and meeting space. The renovation was
done by Highlands designer Chad Lucas.
The Bird Room
Our Beautiful Stairwell
Some Guests Stay Forever
Some guests never leave. At least
that's the way it is at Highlands Inn. Guests book
rooms sometimes years in advance and once situated
When Tammy Steele and husband came to Highlands the
week of October 12, they came for the leaves, for the
small town atmosphere and the homey hospitality of the
They checked into Room 34 on the third floor
overlooking Main Street. The room is cozy and inviting
and offered the perfect setting for their weekend
Sometime between 6:00 and 6:30 P.M. Saturday evening
while the waning autumn sun still warmed the room,
Tammy returned to her room after her day on the town.
She sat on the corner of the bed in front of the
middle window, which overlooked Main Street, to remove
Suddenly she felt a cold chill, like the
air-conditioner was blowing on her. Thinking her
husband had returned; she looked up from her task. But
instead of her husband she saw a lady approaching from
the window in front of her.
"She was almost solid, but I could see through her as
she walked from the window past the corner of the bed
toward the door behind me", said Tammy. "She never
looked at me, just the door, the closer she got
to the door, the thinner more transparent she became.
By the time she got to the door I could barely see her
and then she just disappeared. I don't know if she
walked through the closed door or just vanished. The
door never opened and she just wasn't there anymore."
Tammy's visitor apparently returned from the turn of
the century. She wore an off-white high-collar,
long-sleeved blouse and a long, dark skirt, which
trailed behind her.
"She was thin, but not real skinny, about 5' tall,"
said Tammy. "I saw only her profile, but she looked
pretty. Her hair was dark and piled on top or her head
in a bun."
That night, Tammy and her husband went out to dinner
and "ate too much". Tammy couldn't sleep, so she sat
in a chair by the fireplace to watch television and
read. Only the table lamp and the glow from the TV and
fireplace lit the room.
"Suddenly, I felt the hairs on my arms and I got
another chill. I looked over to where I saw the woman
earlier that night and saw a shadow ,nothing definite,
just darker than the rest of the shadows on that side
of the room."
The "shadow" took the same course as the woman did,
moving from the window past the bed toward the hallway
door. When the shadow got to the door it disappeared.
After breakfast, the couple returned to the room to
pack up. Tammy's husband was leaning into the closet
gathering their belongings when he jumped back and
then went over to the mirror hanging on the wall.
He jumped because he said that it felt like someone
slowly ran his or her finger down the back of his
neck. He went to the mirror to see if there was a bug
on his neck, but nothing was there.
Owner, Sabrina Hawkins, says there is no telling who
the visitor was. The Inn was built by Joseph Halleck
in 1880 as the first hotel in Highlands. The Inn is
certainly old enough to have turn of the century
visitors. So who is the lovely lady who
travels her endless path from window to door in Room
34? No one knows, but visitors are sure to find her
somewhere on the third floor.
Written in Highlander
Newspaper in 2002
GPS directions: 420 Main Street ~ Highlands, North
The Highlands Inn & Kelsey
Corner of 4th & Main St.
PO Box 1030
Highlands, NC 28741