East Side residents were a cross-section of merchants, businessmen, and laborers and their families. Many were employed in wagon factories or tobacco warehouses, or worked on the railroad. Nearly all were natives of Norway, or were of the first generation born to Norwegian parents. Many families owned their houses for decades, and some houses remained in one family’s ownership well into the twentieth century. A few are still owned by descendants of the original builder.
When the Bird’s Eye View of Stoughton was published in 1883, only a few houses and the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Christ Church (1875) stood on the rise of land east of the railroad tracks. Just to the west of the present-day historic district the land was owned by Luke Stoughton. In 1875 Stoughton’s land was divided by his son-in-law, O.M. Turner; several other additions followed including those of John Nelson in 1885 and Bjoin and Gunderson in 1900. However, by 1883 only the house of Christen (Christian) Hanson at 924 E. Main St. appears to have been built within the boundaries of the present-day district. The area was so uncharted that the 1882 Stoughton City Directory gave Hanson’s address as “Main, over railroad.”
For a few years, a small frame church stood alone on the east side hill. In 1875 the Norwegian Evangelical Lutherans of the Stoughton and McFarland districts of the West Koshkonong Church founded a new congregation of thirty-two families. Their new church was completed in 1875 at 848 E. Main Street. By 1882 the church had 280 members. (Stoughton’s other Norwegian Lutheran congregation erected a church at 414 E. Jefferson St. in 1872; in 1882 they numbered 325.) A new brick building was erected over the old in 1914; it was razed for the present Christ Lutheran Church.
Louis Severson (908 E. Main), Abraham H. Severson (921 E. Main), and Edwin Bjoin (1001 E. Main) were among the first house builders after Christen Hanson. Many chose the hipped-roof Italianate Style, with its ornate trim and cube-like shape. In the next decade, Queen Anne Style houses with generous porches, patterned shingle trim, and multiple gable-and-hip roofs and balconies were popular with builders including Ole Simonson at 224 N. Franklin St.