Altfillisch Project

Posted: October 27, 2022 in City News

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, timed to Wednesday, Nov. 2 event

Decorah Historic Preservation Commission

Contact: Mark Z. Muggli, DHPC Chair (; 612-720-5795)

Nov. 2 Celebration of Altfillisch Project Completion

Decorah, IA (Oct. 27, 2022) — The Decorah Historic Preservation Commission (DHPC) invites the public to a Wednesday, Nov. 2 celebration of its project documenting the Decorah buildings of legendary architect Charles Altfillisch. The informal come-and-go gathering will be from 4:00-5:30 on the rear patio of the Midcentury Modern Altfillisch home at 801 Mound St. Light refreshments and snacks will be provided.

According to the Commission, Charles Altfillisch was Decorah’s preeminent architect from 1920 through the mid 1960s. In addition to designing all of Decorah’s schools during that period, he designed many dozens of new houses, businesses, and public buildings. He was for thirty years the driving force behind the flood control project that culminated in the 1951 Decorah dike system. By the early 1960s, Altfillisch’s firm had four full-time architects and a full support staff.

The DHPC project includes a brochure that includes sixty properties divided into four color-coded tours. But according to DHPC member Diane Scholl, the more major part of the project is an extensive internet archive with photos and background on the sixty tour buildings and on many other Altfillisch buildings. The internet archive also provides a detailed chronology of Altfillisch’s life.

Said Commission secretary Judy van der Linden, “One of the intriguing website sections documents a number of prominent buildings, including the Post Office and several distinctive houses, that many people think were designed by Altfillisch–but that we have discovered weren’t.”

Commission member Adrienne Coffeen noted that Altfillisch designed buildings in a strikingly wide range of styles. “Everything indicates that Altfillisch tailored his designs to his clients’ preferences, rather than imposing his personal vision. And we’ve seen that many current owners of these houses appreciate the same features that the original owners did.”

Commission chair Mark Z. Muggli noted that the Altfillisch project took DHPC several years to complete. “We started on Altfillisch and then realized that he had designed every building at Luther College between the 1926 Preus Gymnasium and the mid-1960s Towers Dorms. That realization brought a focus on the Luther campus that led in 2021 to a National Register designation for the Luther College Campus Historic District. Only after the completion of that time-demanding project was DHPC able to redirect its energies to the original Altfillisch project.”

“Although we’re releasing a printed brochure,” noted Commission member Mark Branum, “this is actually an on-going project. We’re hoping this Nov. 2 celebration will be one occasion for Altfillisch building owners and others to direct us to undocumented buildings and to share with us more historic photographs and stories.”

The new Altfillisch brochure will be distributed at the Nov. 2 celebration. The brochure will also be available at the Decorah Chamber of Commerce, 507 W. Water St., which provided the brochure layout and coordinated the Hotel/Motel Marketing Committee funding. The web design was by IROC Web Design of Calmar. The web contents are available on the city website at

The Commission

The Decorah Historic Preservation Commission is a state-certified city board established in 2007 to promote the educational, cultural, economic, and general welfare of the public through the recognition, enhancement, and perpetuation of sites and districts of historical and cultural significance. Contact: