Twin Cities of Northeast Louisiana
"One City, One Future"
|Named for||the steamboat James Monroe|
|• Mayor||Friday Ellis (I)|
|• City Council|
|• City||32.90 sq mi (85.20 km2)|
|• Land||29.64 sq mi (76.78 km2)|
|• Water||3.25 sq mi (8.42 km2)|
|Elevation||72 ft (22 m)|
|• Density||1,595.40/sq mi (615.99/km2)|
|Urban area includes Monroe-West Monroe|
|Time zone||UTC−6 (CST)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−5 (CST)|
71201, 71202, 71203, 71207, 71208, 71209, 71210, 71211, 71212, 71213
|Website||City of Monroe|
Monroe (historically French: Poste-du-Ouachita) is the eighth-largest city in the U.S. state of Louisiana, and parish seat of Ouachita Parish. With a 2020 census-tabulated population of 47,702, it is the principal city of the Monroe metropolitan statistical area, the second-largest metropolitan area in North Louisiana.
The settlement formerly known as Fort Miro adopted the name Monroe, during the first half of the 19th century, in recognition of the steam-powered paddle-wheeler James Monroe. The arrival of the ship had a profound effect on the settlers; it was the single event, in the minds of local residents, that transformed the outpost into a town. The ship is depicted in a mural at the main branch of the Monroe Library on North 18th Street. Credit is indirectly given to James Monroe of Virginia, the fifth President of the United States, for whom the ship was named.
Early history–late 20th century
During the American Civil War, Monroe and Opelousas, the seat of St. Landry Parish in southern Louisiana, had Confederate training camps. They were established after the fall of New Orleans to the Union in 1862. Conscripts were soon sent to both camps. In 1862, Monroe and Delhi in Richland Parish became overcrowded with unwelcome refugees from rural areas to the east.
They had fled the forces of Union General U.S. Grant, who moved into northeastern Louisiana and spent the winter of 1862–1863 at Winter Quarters south of Newellton in Tensas Parish. He was preparing for the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi, not completed until July 4, 1863. Historian John D. Winters reported "strong Union sympathy" in both Delhi and Monroe. As the refugees moved farther west toward Minden in Webster Parish, many of the residents, themselves very poor, refused to sell them food or shelter and treated them with contempt.
Union boats came up the Ouachita River to Monroe to trade coffee, liquor, dry goods, and money for cotton. "Confederate officers were accused by a citizen of encouraging the trade and of fraternizing with the enemy, eating their oysters, and drinking their liquor." As the war continued, deserters and stragglers about Monroe became "so plentiful that the Union Army sent a special detachment" from Alexandria to apprehend them. In 1913, Joseph A. Biedenharn, the first bottler of Coca-Cola, moved to Monroe from Vicksburg, Mississippi. Until Biedenharn's breakthrough, Coca-Cola had been available only when individually mixed at the soda fountain. Biedenharn and his son Malcolm were among the founders of Delta Air Lines, originally Delta Dusters. That company was founded in Tallulah, Louisiana in Madison Parish. It was based on products and processes developed by the Agriculture Experimental Station to dust crops from airplanes in order to combat the boll weevil, which was destroying cotton crops.
Biedenharn's home and gardens at 2006 Riverside Drive in Monroe have been preserved and are now operated as the Biedenharn Museum and Gardens and are open to the public. Collett E. Woolman, the Ouachita Parish agent, was originally from Indiana. He pioneered crop dusting to eradicate the boll weevil, which destroyed cotton throughout the Mississippi River delta country in the early 20th century. Woolman originated the first crop-dusting service in the world. The collapse of cotton production meant a widespread loss of farm jobs. This contributed to the Great Migration of the early 20th century, when a total of 1.5 million African Americans left the rural South for jobs in northern and midwestern cities. They were also escaping the oppressive racial conditions and violence under Jim Crow and the disenfranchisement that excluded most blacks from the political system.
Howard D. Griffin (1911-1986) purchased a boat dealership in 1936 while he was a student at what became the University of Louisiana at Monroe. By the 1960s, Griffin's company had become the largest outboard motor dealership in the world. He also sold motorcycles. From 1955 to 1985, Griffin and his wife, Birdie M. Griffin (1915-1985), operated their seasonal Land O' Toys store on South Grand Street in Monroe. The motto was "Land O' Toys; Loads of fun for girls and boys; Bring the kids and look around; The biggest toy deal in the town." Once Christmas was over, the toy store was quickly phased out, and the outboard motors returned to the showroom. From her childhood memories, Sherry Lynn Mason recalls the Land O' Toys:
"I loved that store. Every time [my father] took me there, we were waiting for his outboard motor to be fixed across the street. It was a magical place to me!" Amy Berry Baker recalls, "It wasn't Christmas until we went to Howard Griffin ... magical for kids," according to an article in The Monroe News-Star.
Mrs. Griffin died December 15, 1985, and the store closed permanently a few days after Christmas of that year. In March 2011, the remaining abandoned building burned. All that remains are the memories of the former customers, now all adults. Cheri Chadduck recalled, "Memories are completely magical, and I am so grateful for my childhood recollections of time there."
On April 12, 2020, the community was struck by a low-end EF3 tornado. Damage was severe, but there were no deaths or injuries due to well advance warnings.
Located in northeastern Louisiana, Monroe is the center of the Monroe metropolitan statistical area. It is the parish seat of Ouachita Parish, and northeastern Louisiana's economic and cultural hub. Monroe has an elevation of 72 feet (21.9 m) above sea level. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 31.6 square miles (83.9 km2), of which, 28.7 square miles (74.3 km2) of it is land and 3.7 square miles (9.6 km2) of it is water; the total area is 11.46% water.
Regional cities and their distance from Monroe include:
|Baton Rouge, Louisiana||186|
|El Dorado, Arkansas||83|
|Lake Charles, Louisiana||193|
|Little Rock, Arkansas||201|
|New Orleans, Louisiana||263|
Monroe has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa). Rainfall is abundant, with the normal annual precipitation averaging over 51 inches (1.3 m), with monthly averages ranging from less than 3 inches (76 mm) in August to more than 5 inches (130 mm) in June. Severe thunderstorms with heavy rain, hail, damaging winds and tornadoes occur in the area during the spring and summer months. The winter months are normally mild, with an average of 35 days of freezing or below-freezing temperatures per year, with ice and sleet storms possible. Summer months are hot and humid, with maximum temperatures exceeding 90 degrees an average of 91 days per year, with high to very high relative average humidity, sometimes exceeding the 90 percent level.
|Climate data for Monroe, Louisiana (Monroe Regional Airport), 1991–2020 normals, extremes 1893–present|
|Record high °F (°C)||86
|Average high °F (°C)||57.0
|Daily mean °F (°C)||46.8
|Average low °F (°C)||36.7
|Record low °F (°C)||−1
|Average precipitation inches (mm)||5.15
|Average snowfall inches (cm)||0.6
|Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)||10.2||9.7||9.8||8.3||9.7||9.3||9.2||7.6||6.8||7.5||8.2||9.9||106.2|
|Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in)||0.3||0.4||0.1||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.2||1.0|
|Source: NOAA (snow 1981–2010)|
|Source: US Census data|
The 2020 United States census tabulated a population of 47,702 people lived in Monroe. At the 2019 American Community Survey, there were 48,241 people and 17,327 households. In 2010, the population was 48,815, declining from the city's historic high of 57,597 at the 1980 U.S. census.
Of the 17,327 households in 2019, there were 7,409 owner-occupied housing units. An estimated 3,493 of owner-occupied housing units were married couples living together; 354 were male households with no female present, and 927 were female households with no male present. There was an average family size of 3.58; 27.4% of all households were married couples living together, 29.8% were male households with no female present, and 46.4% were female households with no male present.
The median income for a household in the city was $30,438 versus $51,073 nationwide. Families had an annual median income of $38,374, married-couple families $75,089, and non-family households $21,210. Approximately 36.8% of the population lived at or below the poverty line; 54.1% under 18 years, 32.2% aged 18 to 16, and 21.3% aged 65 and older lived at or below the poverty line in 2019.
Race and ethnicity
|Black or African American||61.0%||63.89%||62.0%|
|Hispanic or Latino (of any race)||1.01%||1.15%||2.3%|
In 2019, the racial and ethnic makeup of the city was 62.0% Black or African American, 32.7% non-Hispanic or Latin American white, 0.2% American Indian and Alaska Native, 0.8% Asian, 1.0% some other race, 0.9% two or more races, and 2.3% Hispanic and Latin American of any race. Among the Hispanic and Latin American population at the 2019 American Community Survey, the largest groups were Mexican Americans (1.2%) and Puerto Ricans (0.1%). Other Hispanic and Latin Americans made up 1.0% of the total population. Vietnamese and Chinese Americans were the largest Asian American groups in the city, followed by Asian Indians; the Vietnamese community in Monroe and the rest of Louisiana grew following the Vietnam War.
As part of the Bible Belt, Christianity is the most prevalent religion in Monroe, its metropolitan area, and North Louisiana. In common with much of northern and Central Louisiana, the largest Christian tradition by affiliation was the Baptist churches. As a predominantly-African American city, the largest Baptist denominations were the National Baptist Convention, USA, National Baptist Convention of America, and the Progressive National Baptist Convention. The Southern Baptist Convention also has churches throughout the Monroe area.
Like Shreveport in northwestern Louisiana, Methodists were the second-largest Christian tradition by affiliation, primarily divided among the African Methodist Episcopal and Christian Methodist Episcopal churches. The Catholic Church was the third-largest affiliation, and the single-largest denomination throughout the Monroe area. The city's Catholic population have been served by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Shreveport as of 2021. Pentecostalism has represented a growing tradition among the population, divided among Classical Pentecostals, and Oneness (Apostolic) Pentecostals. The Church of God in Christ and United Pentecostal Church were the largest Pentecostal denominations in the city and metropolitan area; there were also some independent Oneness Pentecostal churches operating in the city.
Among non-Christian religious groups, the second-largest religion practiced in Monroe is Islam. Muslims have been predominantly Sunni, though the Nation of Islam has also maintained a presence in the area. Controversy surrounding the Islamic faith occurred when former mayor Jamie Mayo gave a key to the city to Louis Farrakhan. As of 2021, the third-largest religion in Monroe was Judaism. Of the Jewish population, the dominant form was Reform Judaism, and the oldest synagogue was Temple B'nai Israel, established in 1868.
According to the city's 2018 comprehensive annual financial report, the top employers in the area are:
|1||Ouachita Parish School Board||3,086|
|3||Monroe City School District||1,774|
|4||St. Francis Specialty Hospital||1,584|
|5||IASIS Healthcare (Glenwood Regional Medical Center)||1,156|
|7||Walmart Stores, Inc.||912|
|8||City of Monroe||894|
|9||University of Louisiana at Monroe||852|
|10||Graphic Packaging International, Inc.||840|
Sports and entertainment
The Monroe Civic Center has multiple facilities; the main complex is the Civic Center arena. This arena provides 44,000 square feet (4,100 m2) of exhibit space along with 5,600 seats. The arena may have larger capacities up to 7,200 seats. The arena houses events such as banquets, circuses, and rodeos.
The center also has the B. D. Robinson conference hall, Monroe Convention Center, equestrian pavilion, and the 2,200-seat W. L. Jack Howard Theatre, named for W. L. "Jack" Howard, the Union Parish native who served as the mayor of Monroe from 1956 to 1972 and again from 1976 to 1978. The Harvey H. Benoit Recreation Center is used for basketball games and has outdoor tennis courts.
Monroe is the home of the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo, which collectively maintains over 500 animals. The zoo also offers boat rides and a catwalk, in addition to other seasonal activities.
The Monroe area is home to several museums, including the Northeast Louisiana Children's Museum, the Biedenharn Museum and Gardens, Chennault Aviation & Military Museum, the Masur Museum of Arts, and the Northeast Louisiana Delta African-American Heritage Museum. This is one of the twenty-six sites identified in the early 21st century as part of the state's African American Heritage Trail.
- Bayou Desiard Country Club
- Chennault Golf Course
- Frenchman's Bend Country Club
- The Links at Muny, Forsythe Park
- Pecanland Mall has major anchor stores: Belk, Dillard's, and JC Penney. The largest mall in North Louisiana, it has a total of 83 retail stores.
Colleges and universities
- Northeast Louisiana Technical College
- UniTech Training Academy
- Career Technical College
- McCann School of Business & Technology
- University of Louisiana at Monroe
- Louisiana Delta Community College
- Carroll High School
- Geneva Academy
- Neville High School
- Ouachita Christian High School
- Ouachita Parish High School
- Richwood High School
- River Oaks School
- St. Frederick High School
- Sterlington High School
- Vision Academy
- Wossman High School
- West Monroe High School
- Riser High School
The city of Monroe has its own department of education, which operates separately from the larger Ouachita Parish School System. It is known as the Monroe City School System. The department consists of three high schools, three junior high schools, and 18 elementary schools.
Monroe is served by a Gannett newspaper, the Monroe News Star, formerly an afternoon daily owned and operated by the father-son team of publishers, Robert Wilson Ewing, I, and John D. Ewing. When the Ewing's Monroe Morning World ceased publication, the sister publication, the News Star, became the city's morning-only newspaper.
Monroe is also served by two African-American owned weekly newspapers: the Monroe Free Press and the Monroe Dispatch. The Free Press was founded in 1969 by Roosevelt Wright, Jr., and The Dispatch was founded in 1975 by Irma and Frank Detiege.
The Ouachita Citizen is a locally owned and operated weekly newspaper that was founded in 1924. It has all-local coverage of events in Ouachita Parish, including Monroe, West Monroe, Sterlington and Richwood.
Emergency alert stations
- KMLB-KNOE 540 AM
- KMVX-KNOE 101.9 FM
- KNOE TV 8
- KTVE-TV 10
- KARD-TV 14
Monroe was the headquarters of Delta Air Lines during the second half of the 1920s. As it expanded, it moved to Atlanta. Monroe Regional Airport serves the city and the northeast Louisiana region. The airport has three main runways and is served by the regional partners of American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines.
Greyhound Bus Lines provides transportation from Monroe to many cities across the nation. The city of Monroe has the oldest municipally owned transit system in the nation. Created in 1906 as a four-line street railroad, the Monroe Transit System now provides 13 fixed bus routes covering most areas of the city, and three demand-response buses serving the disabled.
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- Winters, p. 416
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