Overview

09

Owner

Donald and Ilene (Meyer) Moore

Address

220 Riverview Dr Decorah, IA 52101

Year Built

1947

Architectural Style

Midcentury Modern Ranch

The Moore house has an interesting development history. The original Altfillisch plans (Project #4736) includes this slightly redundant heading: “Plan Showing Proposed Future Complete Development.” This is, in effect, three sets of plans: the initial building, a future plan, and the ultimate plan.

The initial plan, constructed in 1947/48 and visible in the above photo, included the kitchen, dining, and laundry area in the central, right-hand section of the house under a low-sloped hip roof. To the left (north), there was a flat-roofed area divided into two parts: a garage along the northeast, and what was called the “temporary living room” (note five windows) along the northwest. The northern half of the house had a roof canopy with openings that allowed sunlight to bathe the house wall. (There is a similar effect still visible on the entryway of 217 Riverview, an Altfillisch 1956 Midcentury Modern Ranch just across the street.)

According to building receipts, the second stage of the plan was evidently worked on in late 1951. This stage turned the “temporary living room” into the existing second garage bay. The plan also included a primary bedroom and bath added to the east of the garage. This whole addition was covered with a low-sloped hip roof that extended the original roofline of the “main” house.

The third stage, probably also completed in the early 1950s, added a living room to the south, again under a low-sloped roof that matched the original central house roofline. The southwest corner of this addition includes a glassed sunroom on a slab (no basement), that was perhaps originally screened.

The original blueprints and elevation drawings, held by the current owners, were completed by Altfillisch. Interestingly, the second-stage plans don’t include the Altfillisch firm name, but do include a title block that says “Edward W. Novak, Architect. Aug.- Sept. 1951. 5113.”  Since Altfillisch Project #5113 is for a completely different project from this one, it would seem that Novak was acting on his own, even though he was in fact completing the original plan proposed by Altfillisch in 1947, using a similar project numbering system, and was in 1949 included on the Altfillisch firm Centennial ad as a firm “designer.” Receipts show that Lars Seim was the contractor/builder for both the 1947 and 1951 work.

The original house has wide redwood board exterior siding and the central kitchen and dining area had natural redwood on both the walls and ceiling–and even in the backs of the kitchen cupboards. The original brick fireplace on the south wall of the third-stage living room was a “corner” fireplace, with smallish openings both towards the north and west. (In recent years, at least, the fireplace let smoke into the room.)

The living room is paneled with locally-sourced horizontal walnut boards that Dr. Moore was especially fond of. As he lay dying in 2017, at the age of 96, he said this to a neighbor who was helping with his healthcare: “I have spent many hours staring at those walnut boards. My dying wish is that the new owners don’t paint them over.” (The new owners have not!)

The third-stage living room has a full basement under it. But the original house and the addition were built on a concrete slab. The original house had an innovative in-floor heating system consisting of clay tunnels reminiscent of the in-floor heating systems used in the ancient Roman baths. Unfortunately, the 200 Riverview system never efficiently moved heat to the outer walls, and the current owners have added hot-water in-floor heating to the original house area and to the second-stage primary bedroom/bath area.

The original home owners were Donald and Ilene Moore. Donald was born in the Winneshiek County Hospital and grew up on a farm outside Decorah. His obituary notes, “He was lucky to live due to the fact that he was born with a severe cleft lip and palate.” He graduated from the Iowa State veterinary school in 1945 and set up practice in Decorah. He said later that he lost much of his hearing because of working with squealing pigs. In the late 1970s he and his wife purchased and ran the Decorah Ben Franklin store at 117 W. Water St. (currently Rubaiyat Restaurant).

Ilene Moore grew up on a farm near Latimer, Iowa. Her obituary says that “with encouragement from her father, she was the first girl to graduate from Latimer High School and the first person in her family to graduate high school.” She majored in home economics at Iowa State and, after one year teaching, moved to Decorah in 1945 to serve as the Winneshiek County Extension Service home economist. The obituary also notes that on the Moore’s first date, “Don was called to tend to a sick farm animal. Ilene not only went along but assisted by holding the light after the nervous farmer passed out.”

The Moores are said to have enjoyed looking towards the Upper Iowa River through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the house’s original dining room.

The home’s original kitchen, like so many homes of this period, was very small. It was divided from the eating area to the south with a wall of cabinets that extended to about 80% of the room’s height. In addition to the existing north-facing exterior door along the righthand side of the “recess” of the main house, this recess included two other doors: one immediately to the south of the garage, and, immediately next to that. a service door that evidently included compartments for milk, packages, and other deliveries. (These two doors are very clearly visible on the original pre-1951 photo above.)

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