Union County was formed by an 1842 act of the NC General Assembly. They determined that the county seat would be located within two miles of the center of the County and would be named in honor of President James Monroe. The town of Monroe was incorporated on December 24, 1844. The December 1874 completion of the Carolina Central Railway between Wilmington and Charlotte brought important changes in the town's commercial standing. Monroe became a market town where the railroad brought manufactured goods that could be exchanged for regional agricultural products. Monroe's status as a hub in the railroad line meant that it became home to a large transient population known as Railway Men. Traveling salesmen, or "Knights of the Grip," were also drawn to the city by its large wholesale commerce. Finally, travelers stopping in on their north-south journeys enjoyed Monroe hospitality. As early as 1911, the Heath-Houston Realty Company had plans for a large, 100 guest room, modern hotel at the corner of North Main and West Franklin Streets. The name Hotel Joffre was given to the new building in honor of the French WWI General, Marshal Joffre.
The Depression in the early 1930's brought the development of the downtown nearly to a halt. The establisment of Camp Sutton, a military base in Monroe during World War II, brought large numbers of soldiers and their families to the city, but very little new construction resulted in downtown.
Although a few significant buildings have been demolished, such as the Monroe Opera House and the Hotel Joffre, Monroe's Central Business District still reflects the period of Downtown Monroe's greatest prosperity as an agricultural and commercial center. The City of Monroe still remains a hub of industrial and retail activity within the region and remains focused on culture and commerce within Union County. Millions of dollars in renovations and facade improvements, annual festivities, and new interest in professional housing have made Downtown Monroe again the place for commerce and travelers alike. Please enjoy your time in our historic district and thank you for visiting Historic Downtown Monroe.
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