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Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

Pulling The Rug

Posted Thursday, December 20, 2007, at 7:34 AM

I love maps. There is a lot of information on a map that usually has little to do with navigation, but makes travel more interesting by showing campgrounds, parks, and other points of interest. Now that we're Nebraska residents, I've been looking at maps of the area for interesting things to see or do, and I was reminded of a place we visited a couple years ago... the geographic center of the USA.

Lebanon Kansas, or at least nearby, is the site of the geographic center of the USA...or at least it used to be. Up until 1959 when a couple more states were added to the Union, Lebanon was the center of the free world. If you drive out to the site today, you'll find what looks like the remains of a small motel, and nice monument and picnic tables. The grounds are nicely maintained, and a billboard along the highway proclaims Lebanon the center of the USA.

But the rug got pulled out from under Lebanon's claim to fame in 1959. Even though the "official" center of the USA is now in western South Dakota near Belle Fourche, highway signs proclaim a slowly dimming bit of American history to be just a hop, skip, and a jump off US highway 281.

Maps still show the "Geographical Center of USA" near Lebanon, and if you search Google for the geographical center of the USA, the very first listing is Lebanon, Kansas, followed immediately by information about South Dakota's "new" claim to fame. I found it interesting that Belle Fourche is "moving" the location. It seems they want to take advantage and exploit any possible tourist advantage the site might have by building a visitor center along the nearest US highway which just happens to be about 20 miles from the actual remote location.

So the rug got pulled out from under most of Lebanon's claim to fame in 1959. They can still claim to be the center of the "lower 48", but what remains there to me is another monument to USA expansion, even if it doesn't say that on the billboard.



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