209 W. Broadway




First Congregational Church

Building Name

Congregational Center (Education Building)


209 W. Broadway Decorah, IA 52101

Year Built


Architectural Style

International Style

NRHP 1976

In late 1956 the congregation of Decorah’s Congregational UCC Church raised $51,000 towards the construction of a modern education center. Completed in 1957 and named the Congregational Center, its design incorporated many uses: Sunday school, fellowship meetings, church dinners and community meetings.

Charles Altfillisch designed the buff-colored brick and wood-sided structure to utilize the slope of the lot. He placed multiple wood-framed windows along the east side and rear where much of the lower level is above ground. The local paper commented on the new center, “Many windows give it a light-as-day appearance.” The band of nine windows with alternating-sized panes not only provided sunlight, but viewed from the interior added geometric patterns to the 60×27 ft. multipurpose Sunday school/dining/fellowship room.

The street view reflects the International Style with an unadorned appearance of two box-like shapes. The front left section is painted, vertical wood siding with the words “Congregational Center.” The only windows across the front are one set of two short windows on the brick section. Both sections have a flat roof. On the right, a projecting flat canopy covers a long walkway to the recessed entrance. Look closely at the brick section and notice a small cement cornerstone dated 1957 which holds a copper box of church items relating to its history.

The main floor design includes the multipurpose room with seating for 100, an adjacent lounge providing additional dining space, a kitchen and restrooms. Also on the main level is a toddlers’ room with a pass through window to the multipurpose room. The lower level has a utility room and a meeting/storage room.

The Congregational Center has architectural features which Altfillisch employed in other buildings he designed in the late 1950’s and 1960’s. The grouping of wood-framed windows with various sized panes was a design element he incorporated into the Congregational Center, the 1961 Methodist Church addition, and the 1963 St. Benedict School in south Decorah. Both in the Methodist Church addition and in the Congregational Center, the ceiling materials are maple boards and beams finished with a bleached mahogany stain. Wood-paneled walls of the matching color complement the maple ceilings in various rooms.

In 1963 Decorah’s Congregational Church hired Charles Altfillisch for a second major project. Altfillisch’s plans remodeled and renovated the interior of the 1896 church. Creating a chancel, remodeling the sanctuary, and adding a large choir balcony were part of his architectural designs featured in the rededication service on Sunday, April 25, 1963.

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