Downtown Monroe boasts more than seventy-five historic buildings within ten city blocks, arranged around a courthouse square. Beer brewing and particularly cheese making fueled downtown growth. In the last half of the nineteenth century, Swiss immigrants developed dairy operations around Monroe, and Green County became the nation’s leading producer of cheese, with Monroe the industry’s principal trading center.
The commercial buildings around the courthouse square generally date from the 1880s and 1890s, and most are built of red or brown brick and incorporate the popular motifs of the Victorian era. German-born architect G. F. Schultze designed the two-story Caradine Block (1869; 1007 16th Avenue). Though modest in scale, it bears an extraordinarily ornate cornice with dentils, corbels, and false pendants made of brick. Among the upper story’s elaborate brick window heads, the middle one mimics a pediment on paneled pilasters, while those on either side are stepped. The Rock River Iron Works in Janesville manufactured the building’s cast-iron storefront.
A. D. Conover of Madison designed the Gothic Revival F. F. White Block (1900; 1514–1524 11th Street). The style was rarely employed in commercial design, making this building noteworthy. It has stepped gables, an octagonal corner tower, pointed-arched windows, and lacy Gothic tracery above the third-story windows. Interspersed among the nineteenth-century buildings are a few from the early twentieth century. The Goetz Theatre (1932; 1708 11th) is a fantasy in terra-cotta tile. Spanish Colonial–style polylobed arches frame fields of diamond-shaped tiles, flanked by tiled pilasters, which culminate in stylized frozen fountains spurting through the roofline. Claude and Starck designed the Arabut Ludlow Memorial Free Library (1904; 1505 9th Street) in the Beaux-Arts classical style with a pediment, an asterisk pattern in the window transoms, and fluted Ionic columns.