OwnerFrank H. and Bess (Jones) Germann
Address401 E. Broadway Decorah, IA 52101
Architectural StyleNew England Colonial
Tour TypeSouth Decorah Tour
The New England Colonial brick house at 401 E. Broadway–perhaps a joint design by A. N. Hanson and Altfillisch–is likely Altfillisch’s first residential design project, and the first Hanson and Altfillisch project constructed by A. R. Coffeen. A note on the back of one of the 1920s Altfillisch-Hanson project cards says that the home was highlighted in the June 1922 Iowa Magazine. The Germann house has been unusually well-preserved, undoubtedly partly because Frank and Bess Germann, Frank’s mother, and the Germann’s oldest daughter, Katherine Updegraff Johnson, lived in the house successively from 1921 through 2019. (Kay Germann [Updegraff] Johnson’s obituary appeared in the Decorah Public Opinion, Feb. 11, 2021, p. 17.)
In 2019 Lois and Dean Humpal purchased the house, upgraded its mechanical systems, and redesigned the kitchen, while retaining many of the home’s crucial historic features, including the complex exterior brickwork, spacious first-floor windows, ceiling heights, wood floors, open-staircase bannister, built-ins, brick fireplace, and the original matching, detached, brick one-bay garage. The Humpals also uncovered three original windows that had been hidden–two over the fireplace, and one at the top of the stairs leading to the second floor. The current dining area was originally a sunroom with double bi-fold doors, which had been removed before the Humpal purchase.
Frank Germann had nine years clothing experience when he moved from Chicago to Decorah in 1913. His business “Germann’s Men’s Wear” (sometimes called “The Men’s Shop”; its motto: “What You Buy at Germann’s is Good”) was for most of its history located at 113 W. Water St. In 1935 Altfillisch modernized the storefront, although because of further changes and a later fire, little of that design remains. A 1935 Decorah Journal article gives Germann much of the credit for mobilizing support for the recently completed Altfillisch-designed Municipal Pool.