Darlington’s downtown boasts a visual cohesiveness rarely found in Wisconsin. The buildings, mostly from the late nineteenth century, are remarkably consistent in scale and design, unified by brick walls, cast-iron cornices, and Italianate styling. Therein lies a hint of Darlington’s history, for the city boomed as a trading hub for area farmers between 1885 and 1900, a time when Italianate was in vogue for commercial buildings. The style is evident in such upper-story details as bracketed cornices and tall windows with arched hood moldings. But downtown Darlington’s buildings are most interesting for their cast-iron storefronts. Ordered from catalogs and shipped directly from foundries, these storefronts enabled builders to create interesting facades with many decorative details without the expense of skilled craftsmen. And because cast-iron storefronts did not require bulky masonry piers, they allowed for more expansive display windows.
One of the most ornate cast-iron storefronts is on the stone Schreiter Building (1879; 347 Main Street) where Corinthian columns divide the facade into three segments (the canted corner entrance is an alteration of 1890). Above the storefront, tall segmental-arched windows are accented by pronounced keystones and tied together by a stone stringcourse. A bracketed wooden cornice completes the facade.
Other styles are present, too. For example, Madison architects Riley and Siberz designed the Citizens National Bank (1928; 330 Main) with fluted, engaged pilasters, vertical bands of windows, and a pediment in an austere version of classicism. Polychromatic brickwork distinguishes the Italianate Driver Store and Opera House (1883; 242–246 Main). The patterned brick includes raised diamonds, a continuous string of arches, and a tall, arched niche containing a Greek cross. The niche divides the building into two bays, each pierced by tall windows with segmental-arched hoods.