Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Reason number one to visit Decorah, Iowa: The historic architecture July 10, 2013

The architecture on the historic buildings is incredible.

The architecture on the historic buildings is incredible.

“MOM, YOU’LL LOVE DECORAH.”

Except for getting sprayed with soda while dining at an Italian eatery (and no amends made save a perfunctory “sorry”), my husband and I loved this northeastern Iowa river town.

Our daughter Miranda, who visited a college friend here last summer, was right. We delighted in Decorah’s historic architecture, natural beauty and small town ambiance.

That Norwegian museum we need to tour next time we're in Decorah.

That Norwegian museum we need to tour next time we’re in Decorah.

Home to Luther College and the world’s largest collection of Norwegian artifacts at the Vesterheim—The National Norwegian-American Museum and Heritage Center, Decorah definitely presents a college town feel and an ethnic bend toward Norwegians. Interestingly enough, we didn’t tour either Luther or the Vesterheim. Next trip, because we will return.

Blue Heron Knittery is housed in the lower level of this architecturally stunning corner building in downtown Decorah.

Blue Heron Knittery is housed in the lower level of this architecturally stunning corner building in downtown Decorah.

So what exactly did we see? Mostly, we simply strolled through downtown admiring the historic buildings and occasionally popping into charming shops in this city of some 8,000.

On a Tuesday morning, the streets were teeming with pedestrians, including this Amish man from southeastern Minnesota.

On a Tuesday morning, the streets were teeming with pedestrians, including this Amish man from southeastern Minnesota.

Decorah, with numerous one-way streets, plenty of stoplights, an abundance of benches, information kiosks, bike racks, and planters overflowing with vibrant flowers and vining plants, rates as an especially pedestrian friendly community. First impressions count and this Iowa town does a splendid job of making visitors feel welcome via the relaxed setting created in the downtown business district.

It's the details that count, that show a community truly cares like vibrant plants in windowboxes.

It’s the details that count in creating an inviting downtown shopping experience.

Join me as we begin our journey through Decorah, today with a peek at that historic architecture and other photo-worthy snippets in the downtown.

So much to see along Decorah's downtown city streets.

So much to see along Decorah’s downtown city streets.

You'll find an abundance of trolls/gnomes.

You’ll find an abundance of trolls/gnomes.

The Storypeople workshop exterior pops with vibrant colors and images. I'll tell you more about Storypeople in a future post.

The Storypeople workshop exterior pops with vibrant colors and images. I’ll tell you more about Storypeople in a future post.

Window displays and signs are equally as interesting as the architecture.

Window displays and signs are equally as interesting as the architecture.

A building needn't be ornate to impress. I love the strong simple lines of Cary's Fabrication.

A building needn’t be ornate to impress. I love the strong simple lines of Cary’s Fabrication.

If I had excess discretionary funds, I would have purchased the woodcut art of Lennis Moore sold at Eckheart Gallery.

If I had excess discretionary funds, I would purchase the woodcut art of Lennis Moore sold at Eckheart Gallery.

More great buildings...

More great buildings…

FYI: Check back for more posts from downtown and elsewhere in Decorah, Iowa, including images of the historic hotel where we stayed, a beautiful waterfall, Storypeople, an historic home and a fish hatchery. I promise that by the end of this photographic tour, you will add this community to your list of “must visit” towns.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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20 Responses to “Reason number one to visit Decorah, Iowa: The historic architecture”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    I knew you would love it!!! We love to go there and I think there is another trip there in the fall in our future. There is just something about the charm of a place like Decorah and all the folks we encountered were so gracious and welcoming. Hospitality at its best! I loved your pics and they were all familiar!!! 🙂

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      We need to return, too, because we missed too much. Thanks for your recommendation on the historic hotel.

  2. Jackie Says:

    Another beautiful town that I will have to checkout….other than visiting my uncles farm, I really haven’t see much of the downtown. The buildings are full of character !

  3. treadlemusic Says:

    And lest we overlook it, the Red Roxy Quilt Co. is a rather nice shop….just sayin’! The Magpie Coffeehouse is a great place for really good sandwiches, soups, unique entrees and coffee drinks, etc., with a lovely cozy ambiance.

  4. Ha! – loving the gnomes – Great Captures – thanks so much for sharing:) Happy Hump Day!

  5. Kristen K Says:

    Love these photos! I will definitely have to visit Decorah one of these days. I’m looking forward to hearing more…especially about the Storypeople.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Decorah is not that far across the border. Storypeople story and photos coming tomorrow.

  6. hotlyspiced Says:

    Ahhh, so this is where you got sprayed with sticky soda! I’m so glad you managed to keep your camera out of the spray. Decorah looks like a very pretty town and it seems you were there on a beautiful summer’s day xx

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      This would be the town of the soda spraying incident. The entire last week was gorgeous here in southern Minnesota and northeastern Iowa.

  7. amy farland Says:

    Decorah is also home to a world famous Eagle nest which is livestreamed on Ustream by Raptor Resources Project.
    http://www.ustream.tv/decoraheagles

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Are you referencing the one by the fish hatchery? If so, I saw the nest and an eagle. I’ll have a post forthcoming on the eagle’s nest and the hatchery.


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