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1916 – Monroe Hall

Monroe Hall

This was the first dormitory at the Normal School. It was dedicated 4 February 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. 

Map showing the location of Monroe Hall
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View of west side of building and small trees
Monroe Hall 1918

Monroe Hall featured a dining room and laundry facility for its residents. Prior to this, all students boarded in private homes, boarding houses, clubs, and “light housekeeping” rooms.

People who made a living from providing room and board to students saw this new dormitory 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 was less of an interdependency between the town and school.

Ivy surrounds west side door. View of front of building
1923 view

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 three-story chimney.

The large dining room/lounge was used for many events including an elaborate, 1947 charter night dinner and program for the new Cheney Lions Club for 250 guests.

Interior view of lounge, furniture, students, and fireplace
Monroe Hall lounge with fireplace
Elevated view of building and landscape behind it.
Monroe Hall and campus, 1947

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 and the new front entrance now faces Patterson Hall. The historical front is now the rear of the building, with windows that appear to be doors located in the original entrance frames.

Front of building showing entrances at either end

The hall was named for Mrs. Mary A. Monroe (1861-1953), 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.

She was also unique in that era as a married woman with a living husband who was addressed using her own first name rather than her husband’s.

Newspaper obituary of Mrs. Monroe

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.

The major renovation of 1999-2000, converted the hall to classroom and office space, erasing almost all of its original interior features.

Monroe Hall | Spokane Historical

Only a year after Showalter Hall was built it was apparent that the increasing prominence of the Normal School and the town of Cheney required a dormitory.

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We are operated completely by volunteers and through your donations. We receive no government funding for our operations. All of your donations go to funding our efforts to research and preserve our history, and most importantly, share the stories with you both at the museum and beyond its walls.