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Rolla, Missouri
City of Rolla
Old Phelps County Courthouse
Old Phelps County Courthouse
Location of Rolla within County and State
Location of Rolla within County and State
Country United States
State Missouri
County Phelps
Founded 1858
 • Total 12.15 sq mi (31.47 km2)
 • Land 12.13 sq mi (31.41 km2)
 • Water 0.02 sq mi (0.05 km2)
1,122 ft (342 m)
 • Total 19,559
 • Estimate 
 • Density 1,684.48/sq mi (650.40/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP codes
65401, 65402, 65409
Area code(s) 573
FIPS code 29-62912
GNIS feature ID 0751949
U.S. Routes US 63.svg
Interstates I-44 (MO).svg
Norwood Hall, Missouri University of Science and Technology
Stonehenge Replica at Missouri S&T

Rolla is a city in and the county seat of Phelps County, Missouri, United States. The population in the 2020 United States Census was 19,943. Rolla is located approximately midway between St. Louis and Springfield along I-44. The Rolla, Mo Micropolitan Statistical area consists of Phelps County, Missouri.

It is the home of the Missouri University of Science and Technology, well known, both nationally and internationally, for its many engineering departments and computer science department.

The headquarters of the Mark Twain National Forest is located in Rolla. The city is also within the Ozark Highlands American Viticultural Area, with vineyards established first by Italian immigrants to the area.


The first European-American settlers in Phelps County arrived in the early 19th century, working as farmers and iron workers along the local rivers, such as the Meramec, the Gasconade, and the Little Piney. In 1844, John Webber built the first house in what became the City of Rolla. Nine years later, railroad contractor Edmund Ward Bishop, considered to be the founder of Rolla, settled in the area. The state officially established Rolla as a town in 1858.

Two stories account for how Rolla was named. One story, widely regarded as a folk legend, and acknowledged as such by the Phelps County Historical Society, arises from the competition between Rolla and neighboring Dillon, Missouri, to be designated the county seat. When Rolla was made the county seat in 1861, the residents of Dillon, having lost a round, were allowed to choose the name of the new city and named it Rolla, after a good-for-nothing hunting dog.

The more widely accepted story came from a citizens' meeting about naming the town. Webber was said to prefer the name Hardscrabble (which was used to describe the soils in the region) and Bishop pushed for the name Phelps Center. New settlers from North Carolina voted to name the community after Raleigh their hometown but chose to spell the Missouri version phonetically.

With numerous settlers from the South, many residents of Rolla leaned toward the Confederacy during the American Civil War and the town was taken by Union forces in June 1861. They built two minor forts — Fort Wyman and Fort Dette — during their occupation. Rolla was also the location of Camp Glover and Camp Davies. From 1863 to 1865, Rolla was the regimental headquarters of the 5th Missouri State Militia.

For most of its history, Rolla has served as a transportation and trading center. It was the original terminus of the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway, colloquially known as the "Frisco Line". Today, the BNSF Railway directly runs through the town.

Rolla was also a regular stop along U.S. Route 66, as it is almost located exactly halfway between the larger cities of St. Louis and Springfield. Today, Interstate 44, U.S. Route 63, and Route 72 all run through Rolla.


Rolla is located at 37°56′56″N 91°45′47″W / 37.948831°N 91.763048°W / 37.948831; -91.763048. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 11.85 square miles (30.69 km2), of which, 11.83 square miles (30.64 km2) is land and 0.02 square miles (0.05 km2) is water. Running through the city is the divide line that separates the vast Missouri watershed (via the Little Piney and the Gasconade) from the substantially smaller Meremec watershed (via the Bourbeuse).


Rolla has a mix of a humid subtropical and humid continental climate and a Köppen Climate Classification subtype for this climate is "Cfa".

Climate data for Rolla
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 39
Average low °F (°C) 20
Precipitation inches (mm) 2.21


Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 1,354
1880 1,582 16.8%
1890 1,592 0.6%
1900 1,600 0.5%
1910 2,261 41.3%
1920 2,077 −8.1%
1930 3,670 76.7%
1940 5,141 40.1%
1950 9,354 81.9%
1960 11,132 19.0%
1970 13,571 21.9%
1980 13,303 −2.0%
1990 14,090 5.9%
2000 16,367 16.2%
2010 19,559 19.5%
2019 (est.) 20,431 4.5%
U.S. Decennial Census

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 19,559 people, 7,574 households, and 3,765 families living in the city. The population density was 1,653.3 inhabitants per square mile (638.3/km2). There were 8,339 housing units at an average density of 704.9 per square mile (272.2/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 86.71% White, 4.11% Black or African American, 0.43% Native American, 5.70% Asian, 0.09% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, 0.41% from other races, and 2.56% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.62% of the population.

There were 7,574 households, of which 25.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.2% were married couples living together, 10.7% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.8% had a male householder with no wife present, and 50.3% were non-families. 36.4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.24 and the average family size was 2.90.

The median age in the city was 26.2 years. 18.2% of residents were under the age of 18; 29.4% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 23.7% were from 25 to 44; 17.1% were from 45 to 64; and 11.6% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 55.0% male and 45.0% female.

Notable people

Sister cities

  • Thuringia Sondershausen, Thuringia, Germany


Royal Canin, a major manufacturer of dog and cat food, operates a dry food plant in Rolla. Small-engine manufacturer Briggs & Stratton operated a major plant in Rolla from 1996 to 2007.

Brewer Science, a nationwide manufacturer of semiconductors, is headquartered in Rolla.

Hartmann North America started production at a headquarters site in Rolla in July 2017 after the Denmark-based Brødrene Hartmann decided to open such a site in the US. Hartmann is a leading manufacturer of molded-fiber egg packaging, a manufacturer of fruit packaging in South America, and a manufacturer of machinery for producing food packaging. Hartmann used and later expanded the former Briggs & Stratton plant for their Rolla facility.


Rolla is home of the Rolla Bulldogs at Rolla High School.

Rolla is an important center for state and federal education and research in science and technology. It is the home of the Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T), founded as the Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy in 1870 and known as the University of Missouri–Rolla (UMR) from 1964 through 2007. Missouri S&T is well known for its engineering and computer science departments. In addition, the US Geological Survey operates a large regional facility with various centers: the National Geospatial Technical Operations Center III, the Missouri Water Science Center, the Mid-Continent Geographic Science Center, National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Office Liaisons, and the Rolla Science Information and Library Services office.

Rolla has a lending library, the Rolla Public Library.

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