New Geographic Center of North America.
Built in 1936, Hanson's Bar shelters the Center-on-the-floor from the elements.

New Geographic Center of North America

Field review by the editors.

Robinson, North Dakota

Since 1931, the town of Rugby, North Dakota, has declared itself to be the Geographical Center of North America. A 15-foot-tall monument, flanked by official-looking flagpoles, marks the spot supposedly furthest from any other continent.

Bill Bender never believed it.

"Rugby just decided to claim the Center," said Bill, who we interrupted stocking beer in Hanson's Bar in the tiny North Dakota town of Robinson (pop. 37). His skepticism is valid; Rugby's claim was based on a United States Geological Survey that placed the Center somewhere south of Rugby, not in Rugby, but the town claimed it anyway.

Hanson's Bar.
The road ends just past the bar. You don't need to drive any further.

Robinson is south of Rugby.

"Me and my buddies thought, let's look at a couple of maps," said Bill. "And by our calculations and scientific measurements" -- which Bill said involved a ruler -- "the Center just so happened to be in Robinson, right underneath the iconic Hanson's Bar."

Robinson's mayor -- who is also Bill Bender -- issued an official declaration on June 22, 2015: the Center had been pinpointed as "exactly 7.6 feet due south of the historic 42-foot-long bar" in Hanson's. A marker was placed on the spot on Hanson's floor, and the mayor's declaration was framed on the bar wall.

Then Bill had another idea: what about the "Geographical Center of North America" trademark? "I went online and discovered that Rugby had been so confident that they'd let it lapse decades ago, in the late 1990s. So I registered it." For Bill, the ease of securing official recognition confirmed Robinson's legitimacy. "It wasn't like I sat there one night and waited until midnight and clicked."

New Geographic Center of North America.
Bill Bender: mayor of Robinson, disruptor of established Center orthodoxy.

The legal document, signed and sealed by the Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office on August 30, 2016, is also framed and on the wall of Hanson's Bar.

Unlike Rugby, the Center in Hanson's Bar is always warm, dry, and can be visited after dark. Bill has approached Gary Greff, creator of North Dakota's Enchanted Highway, to build a monument outside Hanson's for those visitors who can't stick around until the bar opens at 4 p.m. But Bill's phone number is on the front door. If you call, and he's in town, he'll stop by and let you in.

"Sometimes," he said, "I might even buy 'em a beer" -- another perk not offered at the now-former Center in Rugby.

New Geographic Center of North America

Hanson's Bar

Address:
Main St., Robinson, ND
Directions:
Hanson's Bar. From Hwy 36 -- either nine miles east of its intersection with Hwy 3, or 42 miles west of its intersection with US Hwy 52 -- turn north onto Main St. The bar will be on the right, just past the stop sign, at the corner of Main St. and 1st Ave.
Hours:
Opens at 4 pm. Summer daily, off-season Th-Sa. (Call to verify)
Phone:
701-392-9333
Admission:
Free
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

World's Largest Sandhill CraneWorld's Largest Sandhill Crane, Steele, ND - 20 mi.
Dinosaurs On The PrairieDinosaurs On The Prairie, Napoleon, ND - 44 mi.
Muffler Man - IndianMuffler Man - Indian, Carrington, ND - 38 mi.
In the region:
Badger Mascot Statue, Wishek, ND - 62 mi.

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June 25, 2017

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