705 Fifth Ave




Gustave A. and Lydia (Bredeson) Sundby


705 Fifth Ave Decorah IA 52101

Year Built


Architectural Style

Cape Cod

Although we have called this house “Cape Cod” because of its cross-gabled roofs and dormers, the house has some unusual features. Birgitte Christianson, whose mother-in-law lived in the house for many years, provided this description of the home as she knew it in the mid-1980s:

It was not really a traditional Cape Cod plan. The two side extensions are original to the house, but the functions have been changed. As you look at the house from the street, the left extension (east) was a three-sided screen porch with plenty of room for a small wicker couch, chairs and  tables. John’s mother loved entertaining there. The entrance to the house was INSIDE the enclosed porch, so you entered by a screen door to the porch and then a front door directly to the right. There was a pitched roof on the porch extension, but no dormer.

The main floor plan had a good-sized living room/dining room combination with a working fireplace, a kitchen and eating area to the back of the house, and two bedrooms and a bathroom in the west extension of the house. (Where the front door is now was a bedroom.) Upstairs was accessed by an open stairway that was just to the left of the entrance door. There was a lovely  bedroom and bath suite upstairs.

Like many Altfillisch houses, there were wonderful built-in closets and storage. The full basement under the house had two rooms at the west end and a bathroom that the Sundbys rented to Luther students at one time. My mother-in-law had a pingpong table in the main part of the basement and there was also a laundry room. As far as we know the metal siding was original. There was no garage.

The renovations described above occurred during the 1990s. The Christiansons added a small garage in the west side lot in the 1980s, but this was replaced by the larger attached garage now visible to the rear.

The house was built as a retirement home for Gustave and Lydia Sundby. The Sundbys had deep Luther College connections on both the Sundby and Bredeson sides of the family. Gustave was a 1900 Luther graduate who served as a pastor in the Decorah area for many years. David Nelson’s history says he also taught at Luther in 1945-46. Lydia Sundby is mentioned by Nelson as one of the leaders among the women who organized gifts to the college on its 75th anniversary.

The Sundby house was built on the western half of the double lot belonging to the nineteenth-century red brick Gothic house on the corner at 701 Fifth Ave. That house and the large lot were owned by Sherman and Martha (Sundby) Hoslett. Sherman was a famed biology professor at Luther College from 1932-1962,  and Martha, a St. Olaf grad, was a college nurse from 1939-44 (Nelson). The Hosletts kept the house even when Sherman left Luther in 1962 for a position in Japan. Because the Sundbys were Martha’s parents, the Hosletts made the lot available to them for a retirement home in the late 1940s.

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