History of the Site

Originally built in the 1950s, the North Truro Air Force Station operated to defend our country against potential Soviet Cold War attack. Personnel used cutting-edge radar technologies both on land and on off-shore towers to anticipate and respond to foreign threats. Until its deactivation in 1985, a vibrant community of 500 military and civilian personnel lived and worked on site as part of our nation's homeland security plan. This was a constant and demanding role and the contributions of the people who served will not be forgotten. As this site is re-developed, the history of the place will be preserved through wayside exhibits, historical tours, and information pieces.

The Highlands Center at Cape Cod National Seashore was created to restore the site's former vibrancy with a new and inspired community arts, science, and education focus. It will thrive in its second life as non-profit organizations, government agencies, and public and private institutions join our current Program Partners. The site is owned by the National Park Service (NPS) and administered by the Cape Cod National Seashore with Highlands Center Inc. as its Management and Fundraising Partner.

Set high on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the Highlands Center is a 110-acre site that contains over 50 buildings originally used by the United States Air Force for common space, housing, administrative functions, storage space, and maintenance facilities, organized around a central quadrangle and residence area.

In 1999, the National Park Service developed a vision and an initial Site Plan for the Highlands Center to become a unique center for the arts and sciences in concert with the environment, created in cooperation with Program Partners. Adaptive reuse of buildings is planned in line with current 'green technology' building standards, including the use of photo-voltaic cells, collection of rainwater for re-use, and emphasis on alternative energy sources.

In the mid 2000s, Cape Cod National Seashore made $1 million in infrastructure improvements to the site, facilitating for the potential renovation and occupation of several of the site's usable buildings. Each building will require additional structural repair or renovation. Currently, our Program Partners are fundraising for progress on site.


National Park Service Vision Statement: The Highlands Center at Cape Cod National Seashore is a community for the development of the arts, sciences, and environmental understanding. Activities at the Center foster creative investigation of the interdependence of human and natural systems and link the arts and sciences. The work at the Center is inspired by and in harmony with the surrounding community, native history and culture, and the landscape setting of the North Truro Highlands.

The Highlands Center is a collaboration of organizations, forming a unique community where creative people can work, communicate, and learn. It is also a place to demonstrate the use of sustainable technologies, as well as the location of the NPS North Atlantic Coastal Laboratory and the Atlantic Research Center.

Landscape Site Plan Map

Map courtesy of National Park Service.

Click here for an aerial map of the site created by NPS Landscape Architect.