Overview

10

Owner

Adolph and Frances (Young) Leytze

Address

704 W. Water St Decorah, IA 52101

Year Built

1922

Architectural Style

English Cottage

This home at 704 W. Water St. was originally a church, constructed in 1892 for the First Baptist congregation. It was built of brick in the Gothic Revival style, with high pitched roofs, pointed arch windows and quatrefoil trim in the roof gables and on the steeple. After the Baptists moved out, it was occupied by Seventh Day Adventists. A windstorm toppled the building’s steeple in 1920, but it was not rebuilt. The property was vacant and falling into disrepair when Adolph and Frances Leytze purchased it in 1921.

Adolph Leytze and his partner Harry Schremser opened the Decorah Furniture Company  in 1909 in the building they had purchased at 206 W. Water St. (currently T-Bock’s Sports Bar and Grill). In his 1930 obituary, Leytze is credited for being the first president of the Oneota Golf Club and the driving force behind its founding.

Architect partners A. N. Hanson and Charles Altfillisch drew up plans to remodel the building into a Tudor Revival style cottage, and contractor A. R. Coffeen began construction in 1922 (see DJ, Sept. 19, 1922). The home’s “clipped gable” roofs, stuccoed walls, red brick trim and newly-added windows and dormers together convey a cottage ambiance.The structure retains its 13”-deep brick walls — now clad in three layers of stucco — and the church’s original rounded front door. The building’s walls were high enough that a second floor could be added on the inside.

On the main floor, what Altfillisch described as the Sun Parlor (see 1st-floor plans, below), was the former pastor’s study. A pass-through window from that room to the hall was retained — it was formerly used to pass communion elements through to the sanctuary. The under-patio garage is an unusual feature for this time period. The Sept. 19, 1923 Decorah Journal includes a front-page story that announces that the Contractor’s Atlas had given high praise to Hanson, Altfillisch, and Coffeen and said that “this is one of the most remarkable works of remodeling we have ever seen.” The Contractor’s Atlas article went on to describe the project in considerable detail. A project card from the 1920s lists several other places where the house was highlighted, including the Atlas Cement Bulletin, Keith’s Magazine (Minneapolis), the Iowa State Fair (Sept. 1924),and The American Architect and Architectural Review).

A short Jan. 30, 1924 Decorah Public Opinion article provides an interesting postscript to the home’s design:

The home’s site was long known as “Leytze’s corner,” a convenient place for east-side Decorahans to meet their west-side friends, and current owners Frank and Jo Marie Riha live in the home and operate Leytze’s Corner B&B. The Rihas made minor changes to the home after purchasing it in 1995 and strove to replace light fixtures and other elements with 1920’s period items. The “Walk into the Past” sign across the street from the house has a full description, from which some of the above information was drawn. Other information and photos were provided by the Rihas.

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