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Monument Receives a Facelift

By Staff | May 6, 2016

Work begins on the Geographical Center Monument, near U.S. Highway 2 in Rugby.

The Geographical Center Monument in Rugby is getting a facelift, the first major repair since it was built, as near as local residents can recall.

At 84 years old, the fieldstone obelisk was starting to show its age according to Mike Kimball of Kimball Masonry, the contractors hired to make the repairs.

“It looks like it has had some patchwork in a few small places, possibly even in the last ten years,” Mike Kimball said, but a complete overhaul has not been needed until now. “The biggest problem is a missing stone, about five feet up in the southwest corner,” he said. In addition, other stones are loose.

The restoration involves a process called tuckpointing, which includes removing a good percentage of the old mortar, cleaning up what remains, and putting new mortar in, according to Eric Kimball, Mike’s brother and business partner. “It’s got little cracks where moisture gets in and with freezing and thawing it deteriorates over time.”

“We just want to protect it from the elements and tuckpointing will seal it back up,” Mike said.

A city crew has removed the signs from the monument, and they are also in the process of being refurbished.

The Rugby Convention and Visitors Bureau has maintained the monument grounds in recent years, including keeping it clean, mowing, putting up new lighting, and new flags when needed, according to Shelley Block, executive director.

The CVB is funded through the city’s Visitor Promotion and Visitor Promotion-Capital Construction funds, and public funds are being used toward monument repairs. The city has agreed to allocate additional funds from its infrastructure fund.*

“The monument needs to be taken care of, and we’ve taken it upon ourselves to make sure that it stays standing,” Block said.

The monument was constructed in 1932, according to Dale Niewoehner, local historian and former Rugby mayor. Edroy Paterson and his father, W.B. Paterson, built it with help from Chester Peterson – who picked and hauled the rocks- and the Lions Club and Boy Scouts. It was originally located on the northwest side of the intersection of Highways 2 and 3, but was moved to the southeast side when Highway 2 was four-laned in the 1970s. In 1987 an estimated 12,000 people visited the monument.

The Kimball brothers grew up in Bottineau and feel a strong connection to the geographical center marker. “We’ve seen that monument our whole lives,” Mike said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime repair for the monument, but also, it’s a big deal for us.”

The Kimballs plan to finish the restoration in the next week. “When it is completely done we will wash it down because it will be a dusty mess from all the grinding,” Mike said. “We are looking at coating it with a sealant, but we are concerned about the look of the obelisk. We don’t want to add shine, so we’ll test the sealant in the next week,” he added. “We want to return it to its original aesthetic.”

*Updated Tuesday, 12:04 p.m.

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