Decorah’s Altfillisch Project is Cultural Affairs Award recipient

By Roz Weis,

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs recently announced 17 projects and individuals in 10 Iowa communities received the state’s highest historic preservation honors at the 2023 Preserve Iowa Summit. A Decorah project is among the honorees.

Locally, the Decorah Altfillisch Project was the recipient of the Special Project Award.


About the recipient

The Decorah Historic Preservation Commission set out to catalog and celebrate Charles Altfillisch’s Decorah architecture, and this ambitious volunteer effort resulted in extensive online resources: a detailed biography, a 60-property list organized within four tours, information on other Altfillisch properties, a section of Non-Altfillisch Properties that corrects some common local misattributions and a Quick Tour map of the six best examples of Altfillisch’s work.

Altfillisch had a greater impact on the present visual character of Decorah than any other single individual. As an engineer, from 1919 onwards, he conceptualized and forcefully advocated for the Upper Iowa dike system that was completed in 1951. As a city employee he designed major infrastructure systems and, in the 1930s, was the driving force behind the introduction of zoning and permitting procedures. He founded a Decorah firm that grew to four architects who designed hundreds of buildings throughout the upper Midwest.

IDCA and Preservation Iowa presented the awards during the 2023 Preserve Iowa Summit, held at the Warrior Hotel and Orpheum Theatre in Sioux City. The summit, presented annually by the department’s State Historic Preservation Office, is the premier statewide conference for historic preservation.

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