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Marks of History: The Center of the Nation

1/21/2009
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PIERRE, S.D. – In 1959, the geographic center of the United States of America found its home in northwestern South Dakota. That was the year Alaska and Hawaii joined the Union, which moved the nation’s center from Lebanon, Kansas, to Belle Fourche, South Dakota.
A marker located on US Highway 85 at the Belle Fourche Visitor Information Center notes that Belle Fourche has long claimed to be the approximate center of the United States.  However, the official marker stands in a field 21 miles north of Belle Fourche with a small metal disc placed there by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1962.
Since that designation nearly 50 years ago, thousands of people have ventured to Belle Fourche to stand at the center of the nation. However, several of those thousands never ventured north of town to find the actual marker. So in 2007, the Belle Fourche Chamber of Commerce decided to raise the money for a new monument and located it in town.
“Belle Fourche is proud to be the Geographic Center of the Nation. South Dakota is the perfect state for this honor as so much of what we and the values we hold exemplifies the Heartland,” said Belle Fourche Chamber of Commerce Director Teresa Schanzenbach.
The monument, dedicated on August 21, 2007, sits behind the Chamber offices, complete with a picnic area and flags of all 50 states. A visitor center, historic Johnny Spaulding Cabin and Tri-State Museum are also nearby for those interested in the history of the area. The original marker remains in its place, for those adventurous enough to go find it.
The Marks of History series is a project of the South Dakota Office of Tourism designed to highlight historic markers all across South Dakota.  Click on the special “Marks of History” link at www.MediaSD.com to access the complete list of articles.
The Marks of History series is part of Goal 1 of the 2010 Initiative to double visitor spending in South Dakota.  The Office of Tourism serves under the direction of Richard Benda, Secretary of the Department of Tourism and State Development.
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Please Note: The South Dakota Office of Tourism is not responsible for the text included on these markers. Some of the language used at the time of production may not be appropriate by today's standards. Please view the markers at your own discretion.