Historically, tobacco buyers and manufacturers built large centralized facilities to concentrate a number of smaller purchases into one large shipment. Consequently, Stoughton’s location on the Milwaukee and Mississippi Railroad made it a logical choice for the siting of such warehouses.
The tobacco trade in Stoughton began in 1871 when Matthew Johnson bought and sold only a small amount. Edgerton remained the local growers’ main market until James S. Hutson erected the warehouse in 1877. Tobacco growing, harvesting, sorting and shipping became a vital part of Stoughton’s economy. Stoughton prospered through World War I. Soon thereafter, however, the small city experienced a severe decline in the wagon making trade; while at the same time it felt the effects of years of soil-depleting tobacco farming practices. The amount and the rice of Stoughton’s tobacco declined. By 1922, tobacco warehouses were laying off their employees or closed all together. By 1898, there were a total of seventeen tobacco warehouses in Stoughton, of which three still remain on Main Street near the railroad depots. The success of the tobacco industry is reflected in the architectural details and massive scale of these warehouses.
The tobacco warehouses are representative of the development and longevity of the tobacco industry in Stoughton. The dependence of the tobacco industry on the local railroad is clear from the proximity of the warehouses to the tracks and freight depot. Common to all warehouses are the tall windows capped with shouldered segmental arch lintels resting on protruding stone sills.