Highlands Trivia

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?


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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, 1923

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 extensive renovation. 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 Society.

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 stay forever.

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 Inn.

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 get-away.

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 her boots.

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 Carolina

The Highlands Inn & Kelsey Place Restaurant
Corner of 4th & Main St.
PO Box 1030
Highlands, NC 28741









The Highlands Inn
Corner of 4th & Main St.  |  P.O. Box 1030
Highlands, NC    28741