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The East Park Historic District: On-line Walking Tour


Note: The following ‘online tour’ has been adapted from The East Park Historic District: A Walking Tour, a booklet produced by Landscape Research, Ltd. for the Commission in 2005. For more information regarding this booklet as well as others produced by the Commission, see The Commission Publications page.”

Our citizens were abroad at an early hour, and the star spangled banner and Scandinavian flag were seen floating in the morning breeze. People from the surrounding country, clothed in holiday attire, began to arrive, and before 10 o’clock our streets were swarming with humanity, comprising all ages, sects, and nationalities.

The Stoughton Fair held in present-day East Park,
as described in
History of Dane County (1880)

The East Park Historic District occupies a picturesque corner of east Stoughton that is perched on a hill above the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad Depot and a group of historic tobacco warehouses.  This area had no residential development until 1913, unlike the neighborhood just to the east (the East Side Historic District), where the first houses were built in the 1880s.

As created in 2002, the East Park Historic District includes 19 houses along Park and S. Lynn streets. The first five were built between 1913 and 1915, and were followed by seven between 1919 and 1921, and four between 1926 and 1935.  The last house was built in 1952. Many are good examples of the bungalow and Period Revival styles popular in Wisconsin cities in the early 20th century.

Before its residential development, the East Park area was used as a fairground and a driving or trotting park.  The chief land developer was O.M. Turner, the son-in-law of city founder Luke Stoughton.  In 1875 Turner subdivided some of his holdings, but his additions sold slowly. In 1879, he leased a parcel to the Stoughton Fair Association.  The first fair was held on October 24, 1897.  The History of Dane County (1880) noted that “a large gathering was in attendance ... six races took place, affording an exciting amusement.”  At the November 1879 fair, a farmer gained attention by driving two yoke of oxen hitched to a wagon.  One observer noted that the farmer “understands well how to wield the whip and shout saw and gee.”

Many driving or trotting parks that featured horse and harness racing were opened in Midwestern cities in the late 19th century.

The Stoughton Fair Association built a race track and grandstand on the grounds. The fairs ended after a few years, and the driving track then became known as the O.M. Turner Driving Park or Turner Park. In 1903, Turner platted the parcel as the Turner Park Addition, but there was no residential construction until 1913.  After some controversy, the City of Stoughton acquired the triangular central parcel as a public park. One advocate of real estate development argued in 1913 in the Stoughton Courier Hub that the entire area should be developed with house lots, noting that “at present some of our people don’t know where to live ... the Moline Plow Company can’t increase their force at the Mandt plant because men can’t secure homes for their families.”

Architectural Highlights

The first house erected on East Park was a bungalow, and was followed by five others.  Both a dwelling type and an architectural style, the bungalow enjoyed great popularity across the United States in the early 20th century.  In this period it was the all-American family house.  The six examples in the East Park Historic District comprise Stoughton’s best collection of bungalows.  In Wisconsin, one or one- and one-half story bungalows were typically clad in brick, stucco, or wood siding and shingles, or a combination of these materials.  The bungalow featured a low-pitched roof and deep eaves, as well as some type of front porch.  “Honest” motifs such as exposed rafter ends, simple knee-brace brackets, and other simple trim replaced the decorative excesses or the late 19th century.

Home builders could obtain plans from many sources including periodicals such as The Craftsman and House Beautiful.  Local newspapers were another source, and the Stoughton Courier Hub occasionally printed “The American Home,” a nationally syndicated column by William A. Radford. Radford’s column featured many varieties of bungalow designs, as well as practical construction advice. Sears Roebuck & Co. offered prefabricated bungalows, ready for construction, as did other manufacturers. The generally low-cost bungalow appealed to many working men and women.  Developers in some cities erected entire bungalow neighborhoods.

The compact bungalow represented a revolution in domestic design, a turn away from Victorian complexity in favor of simple, efficient plans adapted to modern appliances and conveniences. At the interior, the use of dark-stained oak and pine millwork, built-in cabinets, and a prominent fireplace established a sense of unity and coziness. The interior could be furnished with a complete of collection of lighting, hardware, ceramics, textiles, and furniture.  The English Arts and Crafts movement was among sources for “Mission” or Craftsman style decorative arts, and was well-translated by American craftsmen such as Stickley Brothers of Grand Rapids, Michigan. By 1907, firms such as the Come-Packt Furniture Co. offered mail-order Craftsman furniture ready for the customer to assemble.

The bungalow was not the only popular house style in the teens and twenties. A number of Period Revival styles -- such as the gambrel-roofed Dutch Colonial, the Colonial Revival and Cape Cod, and the simple “Foursquare” or “Front Gable” -- were built in new sections of Stoughton and on vacant lots in older neighborhoods. Some of the same books that advertised bungalow plans also showed these attractive, affordable designs.

The 1920 and 1930 U.S. census provides an early portrait of East Park. Most of the original residents of East Park were born in Norway. Their occupations were a good cross-section of Stoughton’s industries after World War I.  Lumber, tobacco, and wagon manufacture were still strong businesses, and home ownership was available to many.  By the mid - 1920’s, however, the tobacco industry declined dramatically because of soil depletion and a decrease in demand.  The wagon industries that once employed hundreds also declined after World War I, and the Depression years of the 1930s were especially hard on Stoughton’s population.

East Park, unlike the city’s late 19th - century neighborhoods, was developed just as Stoughton was becoming a modern city with a new generation of modern conveniences. Many households owned an automobile, as reflected in the small garages at the rear of many houses.  Improved roads, including the construction of Highway 51 in 1927; daily passenger trains to Madison, Chicago, Milwaukee and beyond; a modern education system; and movies and other entertainment linked small towns like Stoughton to the rest of the world like never before.



East Park Walking Tour   EP 2   EP 3   EP 4   EP 5   EP 6   EP 7

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