The Town of Monroe, NY in Orange County contains three villages: Monroe and Kiryas Joel, as well as the majority of the Village of Harriman, which it shares with the Town of Woodbury. The town is also home to the original Velveeta Cheese factory, now tightly located next to Monroe 6 Cinemas in the village. It stands as a historic landmark as the small building that started the now highly popular “cheese food”.
The town was organized in 1799 as Chesekook (Cheesecock), named after the 1707 patent granted by Queen Anne , and was carved out of Cornwall . An act of Legislature passed in 1801 changed the name to Southfield , and in 1808 another act was passed giving the town it’s current name, Monroe in honor of the fifth President, James Monroe. The first town meeting was held in the home of John Weygant in April 1799. In 1864 ‘Old Monroe’ was divided into three towns, Monroe , Highlands , and Southfields.
Early surveyors found many minerals in the region including feldspar, mica, quartz, and iron. This mineral combination combined with plentiful lumber, wood, and lime gave rise to the iron industry in the area. 1752 saw the creation of the Sterling Iron Works.
1841 brought the Erie Railroad providing better personal and commercial transportation with New York City . The railroad was an immediate sensation opening the dairy, iron and associated industries to New York City.
The early 1900’s saw change in rail travel from primarily commercial to passenger traffic making the transformation of Monroe to a popular vacation resort area. This combined with the introduction of the automobile and improved roads and highways took Monroe from an industrial/farming focus to a vacation/suburban lifestyle. Train rides through the country took city folks to Monroe lakes, and cool-clean air as featured in advertising to attract vacationers. Tourism gave rise to many hotels, boarding houses, and summer cottages. Many of these visitors later became residents commuting to New York , taking the area to what appears its destiny of being a central crossroad and suburb to metropolitan New York City.
Things to Do
Monroe lies in the heart of Orange County’s horse country. Riding stables abound, taking advantage of the area’s rolling hills and green countryside. Golf is popular here for the same reason, and numerous fine clubs are an easy drive from Monroe. Monroe itself boasts several notable courses, including their own country club, and
Mansion Ridge Golf Club which has been the site of the New York State Amateur Championship competition.
Skiing is available at nearby Mt. Peter, and other slopes are a reasonable drive, including one at West Point. Hiking and cycling are also popular, especially in the many state parks surrounding Monroe. The two notable parks are Harriman State Park, and Bear Mountain State Park. Both are open year around, and offer camping, hiking, fishing, skating, cross country skiing etc.
Greenwood Lake is not far, and offers sport fishing, boating, swimming, water skiing and just floating in the sun. Power boats and sailboat share the marina there, which is near several fine restaurants on the water.
Museum Village offers re-enactment of life in the 19th Century. Visit from April through June 19, and in September through November. Visitors can see actors dressed in clothing of the time performing chores, working in shops using equipment and tools of the time. Many of the displays are interactive, and visitors can ask questions about life in early times. One special display shows an actual fully articulated Mastadon skeleton. Mastodons were prevalent in the area during the Pliocene era 11,000 years ago. The region in and around Monroe is known to be rich in buried Mastodon bones.
Commuting to New York City from Monroe, NY can be an hour trip by car, bus or by taking the train from nearby Harriman. Monroe’s business district offers a wide variety of shops and amenities. For power shoppers, the Woodbury Commons Outlet Mall has name brand shops from around the world selling fashion, furniture, home goods and accessories at discount prices.
Nearby are numerous fine restaurants, many of which take advantage of the area’s natural beauty and offer outdoor dining the summer months. In Monroe, Bocci’s Italian Village features home made meals and Italian baked goods. La Vera Cuchina, also Italian is known for its fine food and service. It offers catering as well as meals from their menu. Plum House is known in the area for its exceptional Japanese cuisine. Not far from Monroe are dozens of other gourmet restaurants. Highly recommended is Chumly’s BBQ in Florida, small, quaint, a little funky but famous for outstanding smoked ribs, brisket, chicken and generous sides. A large variety of restaurant cuisines are available in the area, from Italian and Asian to South American, classic American and kosher.