OwnerFirst United Methodist Church
Building NameEducation & Office Building
Address302 W. Broadway Decorah, IA 52101
Architectural StyleMidcentury Modern
Tour TypeSouth Decorah Tour
Established in 1851 as the first Decorah religious denomination, the Methodists at that time included only three families: the Days, Painters, and Morses. Their first permanent, wooden church structure was built in 1856. The 1874 Gothic Revival brick church on the corner of Court and Broadway is the third Methodist church built on this site. In 1948, the basement under the main church building was fully excavated and the spaces reconfigured; the design was by Altfillisch and construction by A. R. Coffeen; the blueprints are available at WCHS.
The church retains the blueprints from the Altfillisch firm’s 1961 expansion, although it is unclear who did the bulk of the design. Don Gray, a firm member and at the time a Methodist Church trustee, signed some documents; other documents have Altfillisch’s signature.
The 1961 Altfillisch expansion includes a single-story brick office addition to the rear with its own entrance, and a more prominent two-story education building to the north connected to the office with a two-story walkway. A new church basement entrance was also added on the church’s northeast corner.
Given the challenge of expanding an iconic historic building, Altfillisch’s design still looks successful sixty years later. The brick complements the rose-colored brick of the original building, and the contemporary, wood-framed glass windows above the education building’s entryway evoke the heights of the original Gothic church without attempting to duplicate the original windows or roof pitch. The entryway on the Broadway side of the addition mimics the roof and trellis designs on the larger building and thereby creates some continuity between the quite different additions.
The alternating-sized blocks in the windows and trellis on the office building’s south side recur in the interior office entryway and in other places. The pattern is typical of Altfillisch’s work of this period; examples are found on the east side of the Congregational addition and on the St. Benedict school.