History

Downtown Monroe has an amazing history echoing through the beautiful buildings and the architectural jewels that have been preserved over the years. The majority of the prestigious Downtown structures were built by some of the most notable architects of their time including William Drago and Walter Burley Griffin, during a period when Monroe’s attractions made the city a tourist haven. Now, those marvels stand as the foundation for downtown’s historic presence.


St Matthew Catholic Church
121 Jackson St.
www.stmatthewofmonroe.com
St. Matthew was founded in 1851. The small and struggling community grew and flourished in the late 19th century. In 1897, they began construction on the current architectural marvel that is still located in downtown Monroe. The church sanctuary is truly one of the most impressive buildings in the Monroe area with its arched ceiling that is famously painted by Glen Kennedy as the blue heavens. The sanctuary was restored in 1997 on the 100th anniversary. The building is beautiful inside and out with its stained glass windows and distinct woodwork. When standing in the sanctuary you feel as though you truly are part of something big. Stop by St. Matthew for a tour to make sure you don’t miss this downtown gem.
 
Wellspring Building
1515 Jackson
Wellspring is housed in the Luther B. Hall home, listed on the Register of Historic Places in America. This location is the current site of the administrative offices of The Wellspring. The two-story Hall Home was built in 1906 by Governor Luther E. Hall, a Bastrop native who was governor from 1912 – 1916. The Hall family lived there from 1906 – 1912, until he became governor. The home was designed by William Drago, one of Monroe’s outstanding architects. Its design features a combination of Georgian Revival and Beaux Arts Classicism periods, with some Queen Anne detail. It was entered in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and in 1994, a full restoration was completed under the direction of architect Hugh Parker.
 
The Old Monroe Hotel
229 S. Grand
Originally built in 1912  and added on to in 1926, the hotel was a pivotal part of the original downtown community. The original building is a three-story gray stucco building with a balcony over looking the river. It is featured on the Louisiana Registry of Historic Buildings. The hotel was bought by the Kidd family in 1978 and now serves as a private residence and law office. The building is a beautiful and historical contribution to the Monroe cityscape. The multistoried addition next door would later become the Penn Hotel. A unique feature of the structure is the bungalow style house that is on its roof.
 
Virginia Hotel
122 St. John
Built in 1925, the Virginia Hotel boasted three ballrooms, including one on the roof. Guests enjoyed dancing under the stars to the sounds of the big bands of the day. Social events, such as proms, wedding receptions, and conventions were all held here. A popular destination on Sunday afternoon, the hotel dining room was often full. The ground floor was home to a variety of retail and service establishments including a coffee shop, barbershop, beauty shop, cigar stand, bar, and drug store. In the late 1960’s the State purchased the then closed hotel to serve as the local State Office Facility.

Jack Hayes Memorial
South Grand
Many of his students knew Jack Hayes as a strict educator. He was an early principal of Ouachita High School who had a heart for helping his students not only learn, but also succeed in life. After his stint as principal of Ouachita, he went on to serve as superintendent. When he died, the students who held him in such high esteem decided to pitch in and build him a memorial right in the middle of downtown Monroe.

Fort Miro
South Grand
Fort Miro was a small encampment built between 1785-1790 for the sole purpose of protecting the early Monroe settlers, mainly woman and children, from Indian attacks. Since the early settlement was in an isolated area, the males who brought in the food had to travel several miles away to hunt and fish for the colony, so they constructed the fort to keep Indian tribes (Choctaw, Ouachita, and Natchez) away. Under Spanish rule, it was named Miro, pronounced Mir-roe, after one of the Spanish governors of the day. After being released from Spanish rule by Napoleon and the French, Fort Miro was sold to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase when Captain Joseph Bowmar took control.

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