207 Washington St, Decorah (Left)
Porter House (Right)
207 Washington St, Decorah (Left) Porter House (Right)
The Decorah Historic Preservation Commission (DHPC) has selected three recipients for its 2022 Historic Preservation Award: Kevin Lee, the Porter House Museum, and Rachelle and Mark Branum.

The awards will be presented at the Branum’s building at 207 Washington Street on Wednesday, May 11, at 4:15 p.m.

The DHPC will provide light refreshments.

Kevin Lee
Kevin Lee was named for his wide-ranging historic preservation work. As a trained historic preservation mason, he has been instrumental in the preservation and documenting of many stone and brick buildings and cemeteries in Winneshiek County. Lee has developed a carefully-researched list of 375 masons who have worked in Winneshiek County over the last 150 years.

Said DHPC chair Mark Z. Muggli, “The Weiser Mansion Poultry House behind First Lutheran Church, 604 W. Broadway, is only one of the many buildings that Kevin helped bring back from near collapse.”

As a member of the Winneshiek County Historic Preservation Commission, Lee also prepared the Boundary Increase amendment that in 2010 brought the Poultry House within the boundaries of the Broadway-Phelps Park Historic District. In 2019 DHPC honored owners Steve and Alice Runde with its historic preservation award for the restoration of the Weiser Mansion Poultry House and Carriage House.

As curator of the “Historic Sites of Decorah and Winneshiek Co., IA” Facebook Group, Lee has facilitated local discussion of historic preservation issues. DHPC member Adrienne Coffeen noted that Lee has himself unearthed many historic documents and photographs that he has shared on the site.Lee was a key figure in the development of the Winneshiek County Pioneer Cemetery Commission and served as its chair. He continues to train and inspire volunteers in cemetery preservation and is a board member of the State Association for the Preservation of Iowa Cemeteries (SAPIC). He has been an officer of the Freeport Cemetery Association. As current president of the Washington Prairie Association, Lee has major responsibilities for the preservation of the National-Register-listed Washington Prairie Methodist Church and Cemetery.Lee is also currently president of the Decorah Genealogy Association, where he emphasizes historic preservation issues. Kevin and his wife Carrie live in Freeport in a 1855 remnant of the Young American House that was originally used as a hotel.

Porter House
DHPC commended the Porter House Museum for its ongoing historically-appropriate restoration and maintenance of the Porter House at 401 West Broadway. In recent years the Museum has performed restoration maintenance on the front and back porches and some windows, installed solar roof panels, added an indoor climate control system, replastered and painted the front entry stairwell, and cleaned the property’s highly-visible stone wall. Volunteers have also worked to preserve the house grounds and gardens, including the garden archway and the distinctive rock pool. The Museum has announced plans to restore the house kitchen to its 1940s condition and to repair the garage windows and woodwork.The 1867 Ellsworth-Porter House was designed by architect H. O. Ball and constructed of local brick. It was independently included on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and was incorporated into the Broadway-Phelps Park Historic District in 1976.Said DHPC secretary Judy van der Linden, “The Porter House is a stellar example of careful, well-researched historic preservation. The house has a central place in Decorah’s historic memory, and the Board members and directors should be commended for their on-going attention to this important place.”

Rachelle and Mark Branum
The Branums were commended for their thoughtful, multi-year restoration of the historic building at 207 Washington St. Careful mortar repointing has preserved the building’s original brick and highlighted the nineteenth-century “ghost signs” advertising “Plumbing, Hot Water, Steam Heat” and “Henry George, 5¢ cigar, Better Than Ever.”

The careful restoration of the building’s Washington St. brick entrance, to replace an unsightly concrete block entryway, was especially impressive. The building’s badly-deteriorated limestone window sills were all replaced with new Indiana limestone. Various sections of crumbling brick were replaced with historic bricks. The masonry work was done by Ralph Brown of Full House Restoration.

DHPC member Karen Tjossen commented, “Rachelle and Mark’s restoration has preserved a distinctive building and is a model for the preservation of other nineteenth century downtown commercial buildings.”

The Branums bought their building in 2010 shortly before Rachelle opened the Clay Studio on the ground floor. She currently teaches classes at Art Haus and through the Iowa Net High Academy and Choice Charter Schools. Mark is the pharmacist in charge at Donlon Pharmacy, is a pharmacy preceptor for Drake University and the University of Iowa, and is a consultant pharmacist for nursing homes in Iowa and Minnesota.

The Commission
The Decorah Historic Preservation Commission is a state-certified city board established in 2007 to promote the educational, cultural, economic, and general welfare of the public throughthe recognition, enhancement, and perpetuation of sites and districts of historical and cultural significance. The city website lists previous annual DHPC preservation awards at decorahia.org/historic-preservation/awards.