Central High School National Historic Site dedicates new Visitor Center

The National Park Service officially dedicated the new Visitor Center for the Central High School National Historic Site on September 24. Joining R. Michael Madell, Superintendent of the Central High School National Historic Site, were Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola, U.S. Rep. Vic Snyder; senators Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln; Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne; Mary A. Bomar, Director of the National Park Service; and all of the Little Rock Nine. The keynote speaker was U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia.

The new Visitor Center, which contains interactive exhibits detailing the tumultuous events of 1957 at Central High School, opened for visitors soon after the end of the ceremony.

Central High School is the only operating high school in the United States that also is a National Historic Site. It was designated as such in 1998 by President Bill Clinton.

Prior to the opening of this new center, the National Park Service operated a Visitor Center in an old Mobil service station that had been restored to its 1957 appearance. It soon grew to be too small for the number of visitors and quantity of exhibits, so plans were made to construct a larger, more modern facility across the street.

The opening of this new center will be "a place where young and old...Americans and those from around the world...people representing all races and faiths and beliefs, can come to learn about the journey towards equal rights," according to Mr. Maddell.