It Takes A Village
There is more than meets the eye with the City of Monroe, Oregon. It is located in the mid-Willamette Valley, midway between Corvallis and Oregon State University to the north and Eugene with the University of Oregon to the south. This unique and strategic location offers very diverse opportunities including hiking and mountain biking, fishing, Division I sports at both Oregon State University and the University of Oregon, or wine tasting at local wineries.
The recently updated population by Portland State University is 723. However, the Monroe Community is made up of over three thousand people in the immediate surrounding area.
South Benton County is home to approximately 3,915 residents living in six communities throughout the region. Children in South Benton attend school in Monroe and all communities hold a Monroe postal code. Monroe is the only city in the region with storefront community businesses and services. For most of these residents, their access to towns south of Monroe is through Monroe itself.
Geographically situated midway between Eugene (25 miles to the south) and Corvallis (20 miles to the north), South Benton Community includes the City of Monroe and the five unincorporated rural communities of Alpine, Bellfountain, Glennbrook, Ingram Island, and Irish Bend. The local economy is centered around the farming of Christmas trees that are harvested for the worldwide market and on grass seed, logging, and vineyards.
Monroe’s beautiful natural surrounding and its location nestled in the foothills of the Coast Range provide an attractive site for business and tourist development. The vineyards and wineries of Benton County enjoy the most scenic and favorable grapes growing conditions in the Willamette Valley.
The City’s commercial district includes a variety of businesses, as well as the South Benton County Historical Museum. The City Hall and Fire Station are located on Commercial Street.
The eventual City of Monroe began with White’s Mill in 1852 and later incorporated in 1914. The town of Monroe was formed in 1857 when the nearby Starr Point settlement combined with White’s Mill. The combined settlement quickly became a nexus for commercial river traffic to both supply a burgeoning economy and transport lumber, grain and produce north to towns along the Willamette River. At one point, Monroe had 5 gas stations, 4 grocers, 3 automobile dealers, a pool hall, a hotel, and several restaurants.
The communities of South Benton County have experienced a long history of consolidation of services and resources. Historically, Alpine, Bellfountain, and Irish Bend each had a post office, gas station, school district, and market. The schools in each of these communities were K-8th grade with students all coming together to attend high school at what was then called Monroe United High School.
Monroe High School is a cornerstone of the community. Built in the 1920’s and expanded in the 1950’s, the Monroe High School “Dragons” participate in Oregon 2A sports. Recently, the City moved and refurbished the old train station into a new community library that serves both Monroe and the surrounding community.
With the closure of schools and the transfer of the community’s children to Monroe schools, the gas stations and markets closed soon after as they were no longer frequented in the manner they had been in the past. However, each small rural community has maintained a strong sense of individual community identity while also sharing a combined South Benton Community identity.