500 Fifth Ave




Edwin J. and Virginia (Amsden) Goen


500 Fifth Ave Decorah, IA 52101

Year Built


Architectural Style

Early American Colonial Revival

DHPC Award 2018

Edwin Goen was the son of a prominent Manchester, Iowa, businessman and politician. Edwin graduated from the University of Iowa, for five years practiced medicine in Greeley, Iowa, and then practiced in Decorah from about 1930 onwards. The couple lived together in their new 1932 house for only three years. In June 1935 the Decorah Public Opinion announced the Minneapolis evening candlelight marriage of Dr. Lester Larson and Helen Kersten and noted that they will “make their home in the Dr. Goen residence on the West Side.”  (Note that in 1940, Lester and Helen (Kersten) Larson built their own Altfillisch-designed Colonial revival house at 100 Pleasant Hill Drive.) In June 1935 the paper also announced that after about five years in Decorah Dr. Goen had taken a position in Des Moines as a CC Camp physician. By 1936, Mrs. Goen is described as a former resident of Decorah living in Manchester, Iowa. In 1937 the Decorah Journal announced her marriage in Manchester, Iowa, to  Dr. James Whitmire of Sumner, Iowa.

Edwin J. and Virginia Goen began construction of their Altfillisch-designed home in June 1932. Located at 500 Fifth Avenue on Decorah’s Westside, this wood-sided, two-story house with attached garage cost $6,000. On his project sheets, Altfillisch calls the home “Early American”; the house is a style that would today typically be called Colonial Revival.

The home has a number of Early American/Colonial Revival architectural details. Along the front is an overhang where the second story extends slightly outwards to overhang the wall below. The overhang was popular on Colonial Revival homes constructed in the 1930’s-1950’s. On this home, three round finials decorate the overhang.

Symmetrical design is a component of this style and is evident in the placement of double-hung, multi-pane windows on the front facade. On the side wall, a round gable window tops the ‘diamond’ pattern of four windows.

Another common feature is decorative window shutters. Altfillisch designed shutters on several Decorah homes, and he personalized his shutter design for each homeowner. On this home, the cut-out  storks represent Doctor Goen’s occupation delivering babies, whereas on a Dutch Colonial home on Upper Broadway, the shutter design is of Dutch windmills.

Altfillisch’s blueprints incorporate two unusual architectural elements into this 1932 house. The attached garage, then called a “built-in garage”, was designed to integrate the garage into the gable side of a Colonial Revival house. The built-in garage wasn’t widely included in house plans until 1940, when the Federal Housing Administration published two built-in garage designs for Colonial Revival homes. Altfillisch designed this attached garage eight years before.

Another unusual Altfillisch design is the placement of the main front door. It is not on the front of the house, but on the garage, where the garage attaches to the house. This door is slightly set back and sheltered in an arched entrance. It would be interesting to step back in time and hear the first conversation when Altfillisch and the Goens discussed the house design. How did Altfillisch convince them to attach the garage?  Why was it decided to place the main door on the garage? Without a front entryway, how did the design of the first floor rooms change?

The following contemporary and historic photos show the high state of preservation of the home’s interior. Note the small display box in the left wall in the first two photos, and the narrow built-in bookcase to the right of the fireplace in the third and fourth photos.

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