Although the Highlands plateau was created 300 million years ago on the crest of the world's oldest mountains, the village of Highlands in Macon County, North Carolina, was founded in 1875 by Samuel Kelsey and C. C. Hutchinson, two developers living in Kansas. They created a health and summer resort at more than 4,000 feet on the highest crest of the western North Carolina plateau in the Southern Appalachian Mountains.
Since its founding, the demographic mixture of Highlands has been remarkably unique. Settled by hardy pioneers from across the nation, sober industrious tradesmen from the North, Scotch-Irish laborers and craftsmen from the surrounding mountains and valleys, and wealthy aristocratic planters and professionals from the South, the town has served as a cultural center for well-known artists, musicians, actors, authors, photographers, scholars, and scientists who have thrived in its natural setting.
The result has been a town too cosmopolitan to be provincial, too broadly based to be singular in attitude and perspective, too enamored of its natural surroundings to be totally indifferent to them, and just isolated enough and small enough to be anxious about the benefits and setbacks of growth and development.