Darien Downtown District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places

Darien's History

In the spring of 1837, John Bruce, Jr., of New York State, purchased all of Section 27 that is the present site of the Village of Darien. He built a log house that was also used as a hotel, where the Methodist Parsonage now stands.

He immediately set aside a strip of land consisting of three acres in perpetuity to be known as The Commons. This was a place for soldiers to drill and later became known as Bruce Park. The trail next to The Commons was an Indian trail that later became a territorial road. This was used as a military road connecting Fort Dearborn (Chicago), and Fort Madison and Portage.

In 1838 an act of the Wisconsin Territorial Legislature created the Town of Delavan, consisting of four townships of which Darien was one. By an act of the Legislature, in 1840, Darien was detached and formed into a separate township.

A settlement sprang up called “Bruceville” and kept the name until 1840, when it was renamed Darien, after Darien, New York, the previous home of several families of influence in the community.

John Bruce was the first postmaster when the post office was established in 1839. The first town meeting was held in the Bruce home in 1842. In 1845 he was made chairman of the Board of County Supervisors. The Commons continued to be the center of the village until the railroad came through in 1856. At this time the businesses moved from around The Commons to Wisconsin Street and the village was called, for a time, “New Darien”. Bruce built a large grain warehouse in 1857 with a capacity of 5,000 bushels. At the same time he was part owner of a general store.

The telegraph arrived in 1861.

The first regular school building in the village known as District No. 7 was erected at 124 S. Walworth Street. In 1858 a two story brick building was erected, with an addition added in 1869. This was used as the Darien Public School until 1903, when a new grade and high school building was built directly across the street.

The Village of Darien was incorporated in May of 1951 and an election was held in June of 1951 to name the first village officials. The population has risen from 717 in 1951 to almost 1,600. The village acquired water and sewer in 1970. Within the village there are a total of 586 residential and commercial meters.

The village is home to three churches, an elementary school, four parks, several subdivisions, two large grain elevators, and an industrial park with 14 businesses. A new library and senior center building opened in 2004.