Monroe School

Historic Building Fact Sheet

monroe school historic building phoenix

The historic Monroe School viewed from Monroe Street in Downtown Phoenix. (2022) Photo credit: Thomas Hawk

Need to Know Info

Address215 North 7th Street, Phoenix, Arizona
Coordinates33.48°N 112.185278°W
Date Added to NRHPAugust 26, 1977

Originally designed by Norman Foote Marsh and opened in 1914 as the largest elementary school west of the Mississippi River, the Monroe School served as an educational institution in downtown Phoenix for thousands of children until declining enrollment forced its closure in 1972.

After a brief period as a recruiting center, the historic Neoclassical building was renovated and repurposed into the Children’s Museum of Phoenix in 2008.

The In-Depth Story

The Monroe School: From Historic Landmark to Children’s Museum

The Monroe School, a former educational institution located at 215 North 7th Street in downtown Phoenix, Arizona, has undergone a remarkable transformation over the years. Originally designed by architect Norman Foote Marsh in the Neoclassical or Classical Revival style, the three-story brick building served as an elementary school and later a high school from 1914 to 1972.

When it first opened its doors in 1914, the Monroe School was the largest elementary school west of the Mississippi River, a testament to the growing city of Phoenix at the time. Throughout its decades of operation, the school provided education to thousands of children in the area.

However, by the 1960s, urban renewal projects in Phoenix led to the resettlement of many families, resulting in a decrease in enrollment at the Monroe School. Consequently, the school closed as an educational institution in 1972, marking the end of an era.

The Monroe School’s historical significance was recognized in 1977 when it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Although the building underwent some remodeling to serve as a Department of Defense recruiting center after its closure as a school, it remained vacant again in 1998.

It was at this point that a group of volunteers founded the Phoenix Family Museum, recognizing the potential of the historic Monroe School building. With the support of the Phoenix Legislature, which approved $10.5 million in bond funds, the process of purchasing and partially renovating the building began in 2006.

On June 14, 2008, the renovated Monroe School opened its doors once again, this time as the Children’s Museum of Phoenix. The museum’s exhibits and activities are designed to encourage interactive learning and engagement between parents and children. Notable features include a wall of glittery CDs suspended from the ceiling and the “Noodle Forest,” a thicket of towering Styrofoam tubes.

The Children’s Museum of Phoenix has received recognition for its efforts, being named one of the top three children’s museums in the United States in 2015. This achievement highlights the successful transformation of a historic landmark into a vibrant educational and cultural institution for the community.

NRHP Reference #: 77000237