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The Northwest Side Historic District: On-line Walking Tour


Note: The following ‘online tour’ has been adapted from The Northwest Side Historic District: A Walking Tour, a booklet produced by Landscape Research, Ltd.  for the Commission in 2000. For more information regarding this booklet as well as others produced by the Commission, see The Commission Publications page.”

The Northwest Side Historic District is located on a gently sloping ridge that rises above Stoughton’sMain Street and the YaharaRiver. It is an attractive neighborhood that has largely retained its historic character. Today, this approximately eighteen-block area between the Yahara River, McKinley, Van Buren and main streets is testament to the city’s Golden Age – the years between about 1885 and 1915 when local businesses flourished and many residents built handsome houses. In 1998, this area was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Northwest Side Historic District.

Luke Stoughton, a native of Vermont, laid out the Stoughton town site in 1847. He platted the original town on the Yahara with the vision of future flour mills and factories. Hoping to capitalize on the DaneCounty wheat boom of the 1850’s, DeWitt Davis erected a gristmill, the first built on the site. In 1853, the Milwaukee and Mississippi Railroad reached Stoughton from Milwaukee with freight and passenger service. Served by a rail connection and enjoying its good location as a small milling town and agricultural trade center, Stoughton’s early settlers included many New Englanders. Norwegian immigrants were drawn here after the Civil War in great number, encouraged by jobs in the expanding wagon industry. The leading wagon firm was founded by Norwegian born T.G. Mandt.

Era H. and Harriet Gerard House, 118 N. Page Street. Photograph ca. 1900. Gerard was a lumber dealer during Stoughton’s Golden Age when many houses were built on the Northwest side.

In 1880, there were nine tobacco warehouses in the city, and hundreds were employed in the industry. Stoughton was the state’s tobacco capitol in this period and as the city boomed, so did the northwest side and other residential areas.

By 1915 there were seventeen tobacco warehouses and a number of other prosperous manufacturers based in the city. Residents also enjoyed a modern water and electric lighting system, a hospital, a new high school and a new City Hall that one writer praised as having “no superior in the state.”



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