Overview

05

Owner

Hamlet and Thelma Peterson

Year Built

1939

Architectural Style

Colonial Revival

Because Charles Altfillisch, along with designer William Lockard, designed the extant stone steps running down to North St., and because those Altfillisch firm blueprints are stored with the original house blueprints, various owners of this house have concluded that Altfillisch designed the original house. The main house blueprints, however, do not include Altfillisch’s name, and the home does not appear on Altfillisch’s complete project list. Helen (Peterson) Hustad, who was nine years old in 1939 when the house was built, remembers her mother discussing design preferences with the home builder (not Altfillisch); she also commented that she thought her parents were too frugal to employ an architect.

A Nov. 16, 1945 Decorah Newspapers front-page article, “Old-World Skill Builds Stairs,” includes a photograph of Hamlet Peterson and his three children, and also considerable detail about the stairs down to North St. Hamlet Peterson says in the article that for eight years they had acted “like mountain goats going to and from the house.” They then had plans drawn by Lockhard [sic.] and Altfillisch, but that because of World War II, they couldn’t get materials, nor find anyone capable of doing the installation. The finished stairs include “stones originally used in the construction of Luther’s ‘Old Main,’ which burned on June 1, 1942.” At the foot of the stairs, the Peterson’s embedded a mill stone that was brought to America from Norway in about 1850 by Hamlet Peterson’s grandfather, who used them in his commercial flour mill on Bear Creek at Highlandville. Helen Hustad remembers a story that the stones might have originated in France, before being brought to Norway. The newspaper story also notes that the individual stone treads are angled in order to give the optical illusion that they are level.

This classic Colonial Revival house gains some of its prominence by sitting along the crest of the hill above North St. It has wide lap siding and a plain gabled roof with no dormers. The east porch was added by the original owners. The Petersons told the house’s second owners that they hadn’t really wanted a fireplace, but that their builder convinced them to include one. The greenhouse along the southwest corner was added by Jon and Mary Hart  ca. 1985.

Hamlet Peterson came to Luther as a student in 1916, was a storied Luther multi-sport coach and faculty member, was in 1958 elected to the Hall of Fame (basketball section) of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, and continued as a faculty member until 1967. (For a fuller biography, click here.) Thelma Peterson operated Vanberia, a Scandinavian import shop in downtown Decorah.

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