By Jody Brumage
Senator Robert C. Byrd participated in countless dedications, groundbreakings, ribbon cuttings, and other similar ceremonies during his half-century of service in the United States Senate. Many of these events are recounted in photographs, documents, and objects that are now preserved in the collections at the Byrd Center. One such series of photographs illustrate the dedication of the visitors center at Seneca Rocks, one of West Virginia's most widely-known natural landmarks. The rocks were included in the first National Recreation Area created in the United States, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965. Over a decade later, Senator Byrd journeyed to Pendleton County to dedicate the new visitors center in 1978. The experience was one of the most unforgettable dedications the senator attended in his career.
After years of work to obtain federal funding for the construction of the visitors center, work was completed and the dedication for the new facility was set for Sunday, June 25, 1978. Senator Byrd was asked to deliver the keynote address as the project's primary sponsor. Other speakers included John McGuire, the 10th President of the U.S. Forestry Service, which managed the recreation area containing Seneca Rocks. The stage was set for a fantastic event, with hundreds of people expected to attend the dedication of the beautiful new visitors center, all with the majestic rocks looming in the background.
For Senator Byrd, the momentous occasion, despite the long journey to get there, was an important moment in the life of one of his earliest projects as a U.S. senator. His commitment to the project continued long into the future. When the original visitors center fell victim to arson in the 1992, Senator Byrd obtained 5 million dollars in appropriations to rebuild the center, which was dedicated in 1998 and continues to welcome visitors to Seneca Rocks today.
We invite you to explore this set of photographs from the dedication of the Seneca Rocks Visitor's Center, recently digitized from the extensive Senator Byrd Photograph Collection: