In 1965, Spruce Knob gained further recognition when President Lyndon Johnson signed legislation formally establishing the “Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area.” Containing over 100,000 acres of land protected and administered by the U.S. Forest Service, this was the first National Recreation Area to be created in the United States.
The creation of the National Recreation Area initiated several projects designed to provide visitor amenities that would encourage tourism to the scenic location. Even before the bill reached President Johnson’s desk, Senator Byrd was working in the Appropriations Committee to secure funding for an observation tower atop Spruce Knob. In a press release dated February 24, 1965, Senator Byrd announced that he would seek $100,000 to fund the project.
Work to construct one of the park’s central features, the observatory atop Spruce Knob, progressed throughout 1966 and 1967. Preliminary designs included a unique sculpted tower resembling alpine mountain peaks with an observation deck suspended near the top. The final design selected for the project was a more restrained yet modern structure with two levels of observation platforms and an enclosed space for exhibit panels. The tower was finished in the summer of 1969.
On September 13, 1969, Senator Byrd delivered the keynote address at dedication ceremonies for the Spruce Knob Observation Tower. Praising West Virginia’s commitment to enhancing its offerings to encourage tourism, Senator Byrd declared “West Virginia has so much that is beautiful and inspirational – so much that can enable the human soul. I hope that the day will come when people all over America will know West Virginia for its true quality and its grandeur.”
Scenes from the dedication of the Spruce Knob Observation Tower
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