Beltway Confidential

Go West, young man: Watch America's population center move from Maryland to Missouri in 220 years

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Beltway Confidential,Video,Justin Green,Infographics,Demographics

My Dad's hometown of Fincastle, Va., was once the seat of a massive county that stretched from the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia to the Mississippi River. Thomas Jefferson is believed to have designed the original courthouse. The town center, which has been lovingly restored, is flat-out gorgeous.

You should visit, but please be polite and don't go to the Home Place, a restaurant in nearby Catawba that I'd prefer you not Brooklynize. It's delicious and something I always enjoy, and if you ruin it by crowding up the joint, I won't forgive you. Don't be that tourist.

But I digress.

Fincastle was once a focal point of the American West.

It's now an upscale sleeper community suburb of Roanoke, a city that developed during the railroad era and boasts lots of hospitals and a hotel that is really pretty, which people like to use for wedding events.

Rich doctors and lawyers from Roanoke build absurdly overdone homes on lots that were once part of America's most beautiful farm country (if you doubt me, visit the Shenandoah Valley) in order to "get in touch" with their rural selves.

Roanoke now finds itself a relative backwater in the 21st century.

That's all a long-winded way of saying that what was considered the West shifted rapidly in American history.

Here's a gif, created by io9, that uses Census data to depict the way the population center of the United States has shifted from Maryland to Missouri over the course of two centuries and change.


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