Altfillisch designed various additions to the 1914 Smith Building on Montgomery St., including a 10’ x 10’ multistory addition in 1930. The replacement 1971 Winneshiek County Medical Center further south on Montgomery was designed by the Altfillisch firm, presumably after Altfillisch’s retirement.
In his 1998 National Register nomination for the East Side Elementary and Middle Schools, David Anderson clearly delineates the development of this public school complex. The 1897 building, demolished in 2008, was designed by Minneapolis architects. Anderson, who worked with newspaper articles and the partial building plans available to him, credits the Davenport, Iowa, architectural firm Temple and Burrows with designing the 1922 building (the extant Carrie Lee Elementary School), then called the Decorah High School. Anderson says that Altfillisch was “retained as supervising architect by Temple and Burrows for the execution of their plans in 1922.”
Bill Hart in his Feb. 23, 1978 Decorah Journal “Red Book Notes” column on Altfillisch has a somewhat different story about the 1922 “Carrie Lee” building. Hart claims that the original designs by a Waterloo (sic), Iowa, firm were exceeding the approved budget, and that the school board “paid off the firm of Waterloo architects and hired Charles Altfillisch to make adjustments in the plan for the new building so they could build it for under the amount voted by the taxpayers. Charles did this and took charge of the project until completion.” It is hard to judge the truth of this claim, but Hart notes that his father was one of the school board’s five members during this project and that he himself and his wife became freshmen at the school in January 1923.
There is, however, no dispute about Altfillisch’s complete control over the 1935 additions to the 1922 building. Anderson includes floor plans and a careful discussion of the additions. The 1922 building had two entrances on the south, Vernon-Street side. Altfillisch added a section to the west that provided a third entrance. The brick and stone work of the addition are so perfectly matched that most viewers would not recognize that this section is later, although a slight seam between the two parts is still visible. Anderson notes that the original building had a stone marker “High School 1922” and that in 1935 Altfillisch added a new marker on the west section that says “1935 Decorah.” (The combination of the two name bands therefore became the rather odd “1935 Decorah…High School 1922.”
The 1935 addition also included an expansion of the original 1922 auditorium, and the addition of a large gymnasium to the north. (In 2014 the auditorium was refurbished in sympathy with Altfillisch’s original plans by local designer Constance Johnson.) The gymnasium is also built of red brick with Bedford stone detailing, but according to Anderson the styling evokes the somewhat more contemporary “Streamline Moderne” tradition. Anderson claims that “the truss roof support system is designed with an economy of means that gives the whole an unexpected lightweight appearance.” Anderson notes that the large original windows have been replaced with brick infill and that in 1974 an addition was built to the northwest of the original gym.
The 1998 National Register of Historic Places designation included all the school buildings on a single, sizable piece of land. When the East Side School was demolished in 2008, the National Park Service, at the request of the Iowa State Historic Preservation Office, delisted the complete property–thus the remaining 1922/1935 building, now named “Carrie Lee Elementary,” is no longer included on the NRHP.
The West Decorah tour includes a description and photos of Altfillisch’s 1936 West Side School and its major expansion in 1955.
Altfillisch also designed the 1955 John Roberts High School. This colorized photo by Larry Peterson shows the school’s original look, before major remodeling in the early 2000s.
Altfillisch also designed the well-preserved 1962 Midcentury Modern John Cline Elementary School.
This building to the rear of the Courthouse Square was built in 1969 as the Winneshiek County Sheriff’s office, which in July 1994 moved to share space at the Decorah Municipal Center with the Decorah Police Department. After 1994 the Courthouse Annex space was rented by various agencies, including the Iowa Department of Human Services. In 2017 the space was refurbished in order to provide greater security for county meetings outside of regular Courthouse hours.
At first glance, the Altfillisch firm design for this utilitarian structure seems prosaic, perhaps even pedestrian. Some County workers have complained about their view of the flat-roofed annex from their offices in the main Courthouse. But the dark-brick foundation and light-brick upper story does echo the coloring of the Courthouse, and the annex comfortably incorporates the 1910 boiler chimney. Most importantly, the building completely defers in its design and effect to the much more important 1904 Courthouse. Winneshiek County retains the original blueprints, which list Charles Altfillisch as architect, but given the late date, it is likely that someone else from the firm did the actual design.
The original Aase Haugen home was built southwest of Decorah in 1915. In 1962 the Altfillisch firm designed the extant building on Ohio St. Since then, Aase Haugen has expanded to include assisted and independent living units near the Ohio St. building, and at Vennehjem off Locust Road northwest of Decorah.
The original owner of this house was Frederic “Fritz” Carlson, a son of the Frederic Hjalmar Carlson (who built the Altfillisch-designed home at 303 Upper Broadway and the duplex at 606 Vernon St.) and a nephew of Roy Carlson (who built the Altfillisch-designed home at 212 High St.).
The original house was considerably smaller than the current house. The primary family entry was off Spring St. to the right (east) side. The original flat roofs were pitched in the 1970s by the original owner’s son, Frederic “Reed” Carlson. In 1963-64, a carport (later enclosed as a garage) was added to the left (west) side of the house, and a great room was added to the front/middle, which in effect made the Mound St. door the family’s primary entrance. Later, another section was added to the right (east) side. The home retains its original broad redwood exterior siding and considerable natural wood on the interior walls and ceilings.
This building, originally identified as 120 Bridge St. and in another place as “on Leiv Erickson Drive,” was designed by Altfillisch for Drs. R. N. Dahlquist and R. H. Svendsen. As the attached ad from the August 6, 1951 Decorah Public Opinion shows, the original building was an elegant, minimalist Midcentury Modern design. Since then, a number of windows have been blocked and a steep pitched roof has greatly altered the building’s original look.
In the 1949 Decorah Public Opinion Centennial Edition (June 9, 1949), an ad for the Altfillisch firm notes that they have designed the “Buick, Ford, and Chevrolet garages.” The Weis Buick “Garage and Apartment” is included as project #4708 on the Altfillisch Complete Project list. But in an interview with Elizabeth Lorentzen for the “Walk into the Past” signs, Jim Weis made clear that William Lockard was the principal designer. In the Centennial ad, Altfillisch is listed as the firm’s only architect, and Lockard is identified as “chief designer.”
As the “Walk into the Past” sign indicates, the original Weis building exhibited typical International Style features: flat roof, flush-set windows, lack of decoration, and asymmetrical facade. Since that time, the building has been given a pitched roof, and some of the rich horizontal thrust of the original building has been obscured or has disappeared.
The Green Parrot was a Decorah landmark, a major gathering place for people of all generations. Altfillisch’s original design, as the following photo demonstrates, was elegant and inviting. The original building was aluminum and perhaps stucco. The above near-contemporary photo of what was for many years called the “Pub” and is now called “Roscoe’s,” shows that the original building–shown below–still exists underneath the current painted wooden overlay.
On the Winneshiek County Fairgrounds website, Nancy Sacquitne gives the following history: “1927—Bonds worth $12,000 were issued, paying 6% (going rate was 4%) to erect a new grandstand. The new “curved” grandstand was ready to use for the 1927 Fair. It took until 1943 to pay off the last of the debt and get the title. Today the grandstand is still in use and one of only a few grandstands with its unique curved architecture still standing.” The design is listed on Altfillisch’s complete project list. Construction was by A. R. Coffeen, whose firm records show a total cost of $12,980.