Monroe Hall was the first dormitory built at the Normal school. It was dedicated February 4, 1916, and housed about 90 women. At this time, the majority of students were women, as teaching was one of the few professions open to single women.
Monroe Hall featured
a dining room and laundry facilities for its residents. Prior to this all
students boarded in private homes, boarding houses, clubs, and “light
housekeeping” rooms around Cheney. Those people who made a living from
providing room and board to students saw this new dormitory as the of killing
private enterprise by the state. It began the town & gown
schism within Cheney as students had more of their needs met within the school
campus and there is less of an interdependency between the town and school.
The hall was named
for Mrs. Mary Monroe, Chair of the Normal School Board of Trustees. She was an
educated, independent woman for her time. Born in Ohio, with a normal school
and university education, Mary Simpson Monroe and her husband came to Spokane in
1889. She is considered the grand old lady of the Spokane school
system, starting her teaching career in 1889. She became principal of Lincoln
school in 1891, continuing in that role until she retired in 1928. She was
appointed to the Cheney Normal School Board of Trustees by Governor Lister in
1913, and she oversaw the construction of much of the historic district.
Monroe Hall is three
stories, originally a U-shaped building, 130 feet across with two 110 foot
wings. In the beginning it also had a one-story middle wing off the back that
contained a smaller dining room and the kitchen with a large three-story
There were two front
entrance doors at either end of the building. During the renovation of the hall
in 2000, the U was filled in with the new front entrance now facing Patterson
Hall. The historical front is now the rear of the building, with windows that
appear to be doors located in the original entrances.
The large dining
room/lounge was used for many events including the elaborate 1947 charter night
dinner and program for the new Cheney Lions Club with about 250 guests.
In the summer of
1951, Monroe Hall closed for repairs, reopening that September as a men's
dormitory. In 1968, it was converted to office space. Its major renovation of
1999-2000, converted the hall to classroom and office space, erasing almost all
of its original interior features.