On June 22, 1979, a small group of Highlands residents began to meet because they shared a concern for the history of the town. The area was changing rapidly and historic structures were disappearing. These concerned citizens formed the Highlands Historical Preservation Society, Inc., a non-profit organization, intent on performing a survey of historic structures in Highlands. When an inventory of 173 homes was completed in 1981, the Society fell into inactivity.
On April 7, 1999, a small group of similarly concerned residents formed the Highlands Historical Society, Inc., a reactivation of the former Society with its mission expanded to promote all of Highlands history. By 2000 the new society had appropriately bought for its home the oldest house still standing in Highlands, known today on the National Register as the Elizabeth Wright Prince House. In 2002 the organization was honored by the North Carolina Society of Historians for its progress over three short years—from when it had no building to call its own, no funds in the treasury, and no archives to speak of—to what it stands for today: an active society intent on preserving and promoting the heritage of Highlands.
creation of the historic village
The Highlands Historical Society's Historic Village is located at 524 N. 4th Street in Highlands, North Carolina. It is composed of (1) the Prince House, (2) the Highlands Historical Museum and Archives, and (3) the Highlands Sanatorium Tent or Bug Hill Cottage. The Elizabeth Wright Prince House is the oldest existing house in Highlands, built in 1877 by millwright Arthur House, and serves as a living history museum. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on April 17, 2017. See inside tour here.
The Highlands Historical Museum and Archives was originally constructed in 1915 on Main Street to house the Hudson Library, one of the oldest libraries in the State, and was moved in 2002 to the south side of the Village to serve the community as a state-of-the-art museum and archives.
The Highlands Sanatorium Tent was one of 60 open-air cubicles built in 1908 at today's Recreation Park for patients under the care of Dr. Mary E. Lapham, whose TB sanatorium was one of the first in North Carolina. Although moved to Chestnut Street when the sanatorium ("Bug Hill") burned in 1918, it was returned to its original site in 2006 to memorialize Dr. Lapham's role as a devoted savior of many Highlanders from the most virulent and dreaded disease of early twentieth-century America.