511 W. Water St




Oneota Bowling Company


511 W. Water St Decorah, IA 52101

Year Built


Architectural Style

Art Deco Streamline Moderne

NRHP 2017

The September 21, 1940 grand opening of the Oneota Bowling Club drew enthusiastic men and women bowlers from Decorah and surrounding communities. This “ultra-modern” 511 W Water Street bowling-recreation building was the vision of five local businessmen who formed a corporation to construct and operate the business. Charles Altfillisch was one of the corporation members and also the architect.

This 62 ft. x 110  ft. single-story building has a facade of smooth beige face brick. Art Deco or Streamline Moderne architectural styles influence the three decorative brickwork patterns on the facade. This decoration is seen in the elaborate vertical brick design above the east (left) door which originally anchored a projecting sign in the shape of a bowling pin. Other decoration includes a line of brown tile which runs parallel to the roof then continues vertically along the east door. Also a pattern of bricks is laid along the roofline. All brickwork remains as it was in 1940. The only change in the exterior are the central alcove doors inserted when the building became offices in spring 1981 (DPO “Echoes of the Past,” April 2, 2021). In 1940 the only entrance was the east door, and a wide horizontal band of windows continued uninterrupted across the width of the building.

The total building cost of $27,000 generated income for local businesses as the labor and materials were contracted locally. Not only was the Oneota Bowling Club a boost to the local economy, it was an addition to Decorah’s entertainment offerings. Decorah newspapers proudly proclaimed, “ Without question the Oneota Bowling Club is the finest equipped club in Iowa” and “Finest Recreation Building In Middle West Will Be Opened For Northeast Iowans”.

The original interior had “bowling fans singing its praises”. The steel roof trusses provided unobstructed space for the eight adjacent alleys and ball returns. It featured comfortable booth seating for bowlers and a seating section for spectators. The newest type of fluorescent flood lights hung above the lanes, and special lights illuminated the pins. The wall and ceiling materials provided acoustic control, and special fans carried smoke through roof vents. In addition to restrooms, there were women’s and men’s changing rooms with lockers.

The Oneota Bowling Club was an instant hit. By the end of the first week, eight leagues with 24 teams were formed, lockers were rented at $1 per season and pin boys hired at 3 ½ cents per line.

Five members of the Oneota Bowling Club Corporation: Mayor George Baker, Barney Graham, Everett Reardon, Clyde Taylor, Charles Altfillisch

Local businesses involved in the building construction:

  • Charles Altfillisch architect
  • Sig Hanson general contractor
  • R. Coffeen Co. installed steel roof trusses and windows,masonry work, etc.
  • Fred Carlson Co. manufactured Carlson cement block
  • Decorah Concrete Products furnished washed sand and gravel for concrete
  • John Doerr in charge of finish work on concrete floors
  • Peter Johnson and Sons heating and plumbing equipment and installation
  • B. Bolson and Son painting and decorating
  • F. Baker and Son lumber supplier

Altfillisch is credited as the Oneota Bowling Club 511 W. Water Street architect in a Decorah Public Opinion May 16, 1940 p.1 article.

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