With its stylish buildings arranged above Main Street and the Yahara River, a neighborhood of over one hundred houses provides a view of Stoughton’s building traditions since the late 1850s. Today, this approximately twenty block area between South Monroe, South Page, Oak and Main streets is testament to the city’s past building traditions as well as the present interest in neighborhood conservation. In 1996, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Southwest Side Historic District.
Situated on south bank of the Yahara, this area was among the first to be developed after Luke Stoughton laid out the town in 1847. Seeing the potential of what was then called the Catfish River for a dam and sawmill, he platted the original town around a dam site and built a sawmill and gristmill. The town’s early business district soon gathered along Main Street.
In 1853, the Milwaukee and Mississippi Railroad reached Stoughton from Milwaukee with freight and passenger service. Served by rail and enjoying a good location as a small milling town and agricultural trade center, Stoughton’s population grew steadily. In 1855, Luke Stoughton made an addition to the original town plat on the south side of the river; it included a site for his own house.
The next year, Stoughton built his new cream brick residence at 516 S. Page Street. The site originally included all of Block 6, and Stoughton and his family enjoyed a fine view of the river. He helped to organize the First Universalist Church; in 1858 the church building was erected at 324 S. Page Street. The building is now the Stoughton Historical Society and remains a neighborhood landmark.