GeographicCenter of the Contiguous United States is
a finalist because...this small park represents the center of
the 48 contiguous states.
Location: One mile north of Lebanon on U.S. 281, then one mile west on K-191.
Geographic Center Marker, photo courtesy Erika Nelson
HOW IT CAME TO BE Excerpts of nomination from Von Rothenberger with help from Phyllis Bell.
Just outside of Lebanon Kansas stands a pyramidal stone monument with a
brass plaque inscribed with a bold declaration "The Geographic Center
of the United States." The monument was ceremoniously installed at this
site June 29, 1941 (before Alaska and Hawaii joined the union) by the locally
run Hub Club.
According to their own
calculations, the "actual" lower 48 center was one-quarter of a mile
away, in the middle of a hog pen. But the farmer, Mr. Johnny L. Grieb, was
reluctant to turn his farm into a tourist attraction, so the hilltop
site was selected instead.
The Geographic Center of the United States (when you
include Alaska and Hawaii) is seventeen miles west of Castle
Rock, South Dakota. Many variables exist when
calculating the center of a land mass as large as the United States,
and selective criteria and methods can be used, from the selection of
different map projections, to defining the periphery of the shape with
varying degrees of accuracy.
The Lebanon, Kansas "center," in fact, was determined by cutting the
shape of the lower 48 states out of a cardboard sheet, and balancing it
on a point. This determination of the "center of gravity" of the
country was used by the
Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1898. This method, even at
its best, is believed to be accurate only within ten or twenty miles.
Though the Geodetic Survey would later regret making any official
declaration, this early endorsement was enough to enable Lebanon's Hub
Club to claim its center as official, beating a few other competing
communities for the title, which, it was assumed, could lead to
considerable tourist revenue, and literally put the community on the
The state of Kansas pitched in to help the small agricultural town
develop its new attraction by paving the one mile stretch of the
highway to the monument. A few years later a motel was built
overlooking the monument. But the tourists only trickled in to this
remote place, near the Nebraska state line, and the motel closed in
just a few years, and never opened again.
The motel is now
owned by a group from Texas that visits once a year during hunting
The park around the
monument is still maintained by the Hub Club, and a little chapel, with six small pews, sits nearby along with a shelter house. Tourists still come from all over the United States and other parts of the world to this dedicated spot in the center of the 48 contiguous states.