Overview

09

Owner

Fridolph and Edna (Hanson) Peterson

Address

407 E. Main St Decorah, IA 52101

Year Built

1930

Architectural Style

Tudor Revival Tudor Cottage

As so often, Altfillisch’s Complete Project List (#3009) merely notes that he is designing a residence for “Fridolph Peterson.” A 1930 newspaper article says that construction has begun on Fridolph Peterson’s house, but, again, without giving a location. Gradually, through a process of elimination, seeking for typical houses of the period, we found the Courthouse record for a property sale of Lot 2, Block 38, original Decorah–to Fridolph Peterson.

The house is an unusually well-preserved example of the Tudor Cottage, with its steep gables, cat-slide roof, and broad street-facing chimney. The house is distinguished by the sunburst brick pattern around the entryway. There are a number of similar style 1930-1940s houses around Decorah, some by Altfillisch (408 High St., 407 Grove St.) and a number of others not by him. Still, each of the houses has some distinctive, distinguishing features.

Fridoph’s gravestone in Phelps Cemetery notes that he was born in “Solor Norway” in 1886 and that his wife Edna Hanson was born in 1895. They married in Wausau, Wisconsin, in 1895. Fridolph studied stone cutting in Norway before arriving in the U.S. in 1910. According to newspaper articles, Peterson purchased his monument business from James Price in 1925. The business, originally located on Washington St. just south of Broadway, had by 1925 been moved just north of Broadway, to the Washington Street location where the Decorah Memorial Company still has its office. In the early 1930s there are newspaper ads for the “Decorah Granite Works” on Washington Ave., “Fridolph Peterson Proprietor.” The company provided “Monuments and Markers” in “High Grade Granite” and its motto was “Mark Every Grave.” Interestingly, an elderly local couple told the current (2021) owner that this house was built so much later than the nineteenth century houses on the block because a monument maker used the lot in the earlier part of the twentieth century for displaying grave markers. It is a little difficult to reconcile that story with the fact that Courthouse records show that Peterson bought the lot from Ida Thompson in August 1930. But it seems more than coincidence that the lot was associated with grave markers: perhaps Peterson had rented the lot from Thompson before he bought it?

The current owner has carefully preserved the house’s original character–refinishing the oak floors and birch stairway, and carefully maintaining the original birch woodwork, stairway bannister, and eight-paneled doors (birch downstairs, pine upstairs)–while upgrading the utilities, adding a discrete air conditioning system to supplement the original hot-water radiator heat, and introducing highly compatible kitchen and bathroom renovations. The fireplace has an original, simple birch mantle, a small birch wood frame, and red brick hearth frame and hearth extension. The home’s original exterior stucco finish is in excellent condition, although the chimney has had to be re-stuccoed because of a leak around the roofline. The owner has added a period-appropriate copper chimney cap and has introduced a metal roof that closely resembles weathered cedar shakes.

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