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

For over 90 years the town of Rugby, North Dakota, has declared itself to be the Geographical Center of North America. A 21-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 U.S. Geodetic Survey Office report 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 Geographical Center decal was affixed to 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.

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.

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

Rugby, however, was not about to give up the trademark without a fight. High-priced lawyers were brought in. Veiled legal threats were issued. "They took us out behind the barn and smacked us," Bill admitted. After a year of back-and-forth Bill gave Rugby back the trademark -- but he kept the official documents on the wall and the decal on the floor.

"I always get asked if people from Rugby come down here and throw rocks through the window," said Bill. "That's never happened."

One lesson learned from all of this, Bill said, is that there's never been an agreed-upon formula for determining a geographical center. "So we formed The International Center for Determining Centers," said Bill. "Everybody here" -- he meant everybody with him in Hanson's Bar -- "is on the board of directors." According to Bill, the ICDC is working on a "very advanced algorithm" that will make it the official center-sanctioning body. "The science will speak!" shouted one of the enthusiastic board members.

Even though Robinson can no longer promote itself as the Geographical Center of North America, there's nothing to prevent anyone else from doing so, and nothing to stop it from being celebrated in Hanson's Bar. Unlike the Center in Rugby, this Center is always warm, dry, and can be visited after dark. 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 Center in Rugby.

New Geographic Center of North America

Hanson's Bar

Address:
Main St., Robinson, ND
Directions:
Hanson's Bar. From ND-36 -- either nine miles east of its intersection with ND-3, or 42 miles west of its intersection with US-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:
F-Sa only, opens at 5. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Phone:
701-390-9896
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:
Lawrence Welk Birthplace, Strasburg, ND - 71 mi.

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