Lead and zinc mining in the Shullsburg area had its heyday in the 1840s and 1850s, but most of the buildings downtown date from the 1880s, when mining boomed anew and businesses sprang up along Water Street to serve workers from nearby smelters and mines. Most of these buildings are Italianate with prefabricated cast-iron storefronts. C. C. Gratiot designed the former Merchants Union Bank (1884; 201 W. Water) with cast-iron de-tails, including the bracketed cornice with an arched pediment, ornate window hoods and sills, and an elaborate hood over the corner entrance. The Brewster Block (1883; 202–206 W. Water) is similar.
The Brewster House (210–212 W. Water) began in 1855 as a two-story building with an ornate iron cornice, colossal brackets, and an unusual pointed-arch pediment. In 1886, the owners refashioned it into a three-story hotel. Across the street, the Hempstead Building (c. 1846; 235 W. Water) was built during Shullsburg’s first boom, evident by the Greek Revival elements—a pediment with cornice returns, classical pilasters dividing the storefront bays, and double doors with multipaned windows and transoms. One of the district’s finest buildings is the Look and Hillemeyer General Store (1887; 236–238 W. Water). Its cast-iron storefront with ornate panels below the windows is intact.