Photo of the Stoughton 1892 High School taken in 2022

The 1892 High School

211 N. Forest St.
Stoughton, WI 53589

Description

The 1892 High School is one of Stoughton's oldest and most prominent landmarks. It occupies a raised site at the north edge of Stoughton's Original Townsite with views of the Yahara River farther to the north. It's located in a section of town that has historically been devoted to educational purposes, and grew to be known as the community's "Central Campus." It's listed on the state and national Registers of Historic Places and is a designated local landmark. 

Architecture

This Victorian Eclectic cream brick load-bearing masonry building is two and a half stories tall and is approximately sixty by eighty feet in dimension. The complex hip roof covers a 5 x 2 bay main block and two rear extensions that are successively set back in width, creating in effect a complex T-shaped plan. The building rests upon a rusticated ashlar stone foundation, built of locally quarried stone and features raised mortaring with a rounded profile. The main (south) elevation is dominated by a mildly projecting center-gabled pavilion that houses the main entry and stairway. The center gable is raked with brick corbelling and features a small gable pendant incised with a decorative floral pattern, indicative of the Queen Anne style. The center gable screens the bellcast base of a now-missing 14 foot wooden school bell tower. The tower was added to the building circa 1907, probably at the same time the new Neoclassical high school by Claude and Stark was constructed. The tower stood in place at least until the late 1920s, but has since been lost, perhaps to the elements.  The roof and dormers are presently sheathed with asphalt shingling. Originally the roof was-covered with slate and more recently with wood shingles.  more ...

1892 High School Building circa 1900

Early History

The last three decades of the nineteenth century witnessed a tremendous influx of immigration into Stoughton, the majority of it Norwegian. As a result, Stoughton became Dane County's second largest city and was informally titled "little Norway."1 By 1892, Stoughton's population totaled approximately 3000 people, up fifty per cent from just eight years earlier.2 The school district was forced to implement a half-day system in order to allow each eligible student a chance for an education.  more ...

Recent History

In April 1999, Stoughton residents voted 1,196 to 735 to approve spending $335,000 to renovate the 1892 high school. Voters also approved $19,250 for annual custodial costs. The school district planned to lease the building to Madison Area Technical College (MATC). However, these plans were scrapped when bids for the work exceeded the referendum amount by more than $150,000.

In 2016, the school district again began looking at its options for the building. Proposals to tear the building down to create more parking spaces prompted the formation of the "1892 High School Coalition," a partnership of community organizations comprised of Sustainable Stoughton, the Stoughton Historical Society, the R' Olde House Society, and the Stoughton Landmarks Commission. This group held forums, developed a social media presence, and solicited advice from various experts to identify new uses for the building. To raise awareness, they produced this video.

Several viable options were proposed for restoring and maintaining this important landmark. These included utilizing the building as a youth center, maker space, community center, adult education center, middle-school fabrication lab, and others. Funding sources for the renovation were identified based on the intended use and ownership of the building. One of the more notable proposals was from a group of civil engineering students at the University of Wisconsin, who investigated renovation alternatives as part of their capstone engineering project. Their project results are documented in this PowerPoint presentation.

1892 High School Renovation Proposal Preservation proposal for 1892 High School
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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dean A. Hanson · 2 years ago
    The last class to graduate at the downtown campus was the SHS Class of 1967. The new campus High School building was first used in the fall of 1967 when the next school year started. I for one spent the first two years of my high school days at the old downtown campus, then finished the second two years at the new campus. The SHS Class of 1968 was the first graduation held at the end of the ’67 - ’68 school year, at the new high school.

    One more small bit of information is that upon moving to the new high school it was only a THREE year high school. That is to say the 9th Grade Class stayed at the downtown campus. That was when a new name was first applied to the old downtown campus. This is when we first heard the MIDDLE SCHOOL name used, here in Stoughton, for the 7th, 8th, & 9th grades that were combined at the old location of the high school. Only the 10th, 11th, & 12th grades moved into and occupied the new building. This in turn makes the SHS Class of 1970 the first to graduate from the new high school, after completing all their high school years at the new high school. Also their graduation was held on a Sunday afternoon for the very first time, after many years of an evening event being held. The high school principle at that time was so displeased about the event being held on a Sunday afternoon, that he put his foot down. He refused to allow that to happen again, so it went back to being an evening event for the next several years.

    The referendum to build a new high school actually failed the first two times it was proposed for construction. Only after repeated cuts to the original plans, did it pass on the third vote. This is part of why the move to the westside location was delayed, to the start of the 1967 school year.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Curator@HistoricStoughton.org · 2 years ago
    If you have information or photos related to the history of the 1892 high school, you are welcome to post it here. 
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Jennifer M · 41 minutes ago
      @Curator@HistoricStoughton.org Hi, I recently found a photo Album in my Attic from the Winter gradation class of 1892.  I would be happy to donate it.  Thank you.
      Sincerely Chris and Jennifer Meyers Turbis.