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The East Side Historic District: On-line Walking Tour


“Note: The following ‘online tour’ has been adapted from The East Side Historic District: A Walking Tour, a booklet produced by Landscape Research, Ltd for the Commission in 2001. For more information regarding this booklet as well as others produced by the Commission, see The Commission Publications page.”

The East Side Historic District rests atop the plateau south of the bend of the Yahara River, just above Stoughton’s cluster of old tobacco warehouses, lumber yards, and the Milwaukee and St. Paul Depot.

east historic district home

When the plat of Stoughton was made in 1847 by town founder Luke Stoughton, this area was farmland and remained in agricultural use for more than forty years. During this period the community grew steadily, with wagon manufacture, tobacco, lumber and the railroad providing employment for many of its residents. In 1868 Stoughton was incorporated as a village, and in 1881 as a city.

city hall detail

Stoughton’s early residential districts grew on the west side of the Yahara, and near Main Street and the wagon factories east of the river. On the far east side atop the hill and across the railroad tracks, however, only a few houses were along E. Main Street until the 1890s, when several Stoughton land owners laid out blocks and lots in this area.

Between 1890 and 1915, when all of Stoughton enjoyed a building boom, the fourteen blocks comprising the present-day East Side Historic District were built up with about eighty houses. Unlike the west side of the city, there are few buildings here dating from earlier than the 1880s. The brick house at 924 S. Ridge (just outside the district) appears to be the only remaining farmhouse.

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.

library detail
church detail

Over one-half of the district houses were constructed between 1900 and 1910.


The Queen Anne Style remained popular, but the Classical Revival, Arts and Crafts bungalow and American Foursquare styles are also well represented. The Henry and Mary Severson House at 1124 E. Main (1903) is an exceptional example of a Classical Revival building.


East Side Walking Tour   ES 2   ES 3   ES 4   ES 5   ES 6   ES 7   ES 8   ES 9   ES 10   ES 11   Acknowledgment

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