B & B on Broadway's History
Hartvig Engbretson – Architect, Builder and Owner
The turreted Victorian house was built in 1910 in Decorah by Hartvig Engbretson, a Norwegian immigrant and successful business man.
Hartvig Engbretson drew up the plans himself for the house.
Hartvig was a native of Christiana, Norway. He was born May 4, 1845, the son of Ole and Bertha (Fredrickson) Engbretson. Both Ole & Bertha were natives of Norway. Ole was a tailor by trade. Hartvig attended the excellent schools in Christiania, Norway before moving to the United States.
Ole & Bertha moved their family to the United States in the spring of 1864, locating in Decorah, Iowa where they became pioneers. Hartvig was 18 years old when this move was made, and came with his parents to Decorah.
Ole worked at his trade in Decorah until his death.
Bertha died in Decorah on February 1, 1894.
Hartvig worked for seven weeks in Decorah for a stone mason contractor. He then enlisted in Company G, Ninth Iowa Volunteer Infantry. He served one year until the close of the war. He saw much of his active service in the battles of Nashville, Kingston, North Carolina, and Alabama. He received his honorable discharge from service at Clinton, Iowa. He then returned to Decorah, Iowa.
Hartvig then took up blacksmithing until 1870, when he engaged in the farm machinery business. He opened a store in the farm implement business in 1871. He had the largest establishment of the kind in Decorah.
In 1887, Hartvig married Thea Peterson, a native of Norway, who was engaged in the millinery business in Decorah. She had one of the finest stores in the city of Decorah on West Water Street. She was a commercial success well worth notice.
Of this union three children were born – Ruby, a graduate of Valder College, and who was employed as a bookkeeper at Decorah State Bank. Myrtle, also a graduate of Valder College and who was a stenographer & bookkeeper at Freeport , Ill, and Hartvig, who graduated from Decorah High School in 1914.
In 1899, Hartvig suffered a paralysis attack and had to retire for a while.
As his means increased, he identified with other important institutions, becoming a stock holder and one of the organizers of the Decorah Opera House Company, a share holder in the Decorah Value Company, the Winneshiek Hotel Company and the Decorah Gas Company.
He also acquired and owned very valuable realty, having built the Engbreston block on West Water Street .
In 1910, he built one of the finest residences in the city, 305 West Broadway, for which he himself drew the plans. (The Bed and Breakfast on Broadway)
This is the house where Hartvig and Thea lived and raised their three children.
The 305 West Broadway residence, (B & B on Broadway), was so attractive and his plans worked out so well that they were copied by others, giving him high satisfaction. These results speak well of Hartvig’s ability along architectural lines, the practicability of his ideas and the independence of his thought.
Decorah was always near to the heart of Mr. Engbretson. He served the city of Decorah for many years as a councilman. He & Thea, and the children, were all active members of the Norwegian Lutheran Church.
He was a man of progressive policies and was a member of the political denomination, which believed in better living conditions for all. He was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic and kept in touch with the boys in blue. He was a member of Colonel Hughes Post, No. 138 of Decorah and served as vice commander. He was a member of Decorah Lodge No 443, BPOE.
He served for one term as chairman of the county republican central committee. He held a major influence in the local ranks of the organization.
Hartvig Engbretson attainted a success which was entirely self-won. He was a young man born in a foreign country, (Norway), who came to the United States at the age of eighteen.
He retained the sturdy characteristics of his Norseland race, and acquired the splendid qualities of American citizenship. He took these characteristics and qualities and accommodated himself to the ideals of American manhood.
He showed what can be achieved when industry and energy lead the way and Hartvig Engbretson is proof that prosperity and success is attainable for all with ambition.
(Reference – Past and Present of Winneshiek County)
The House at 305 West Broadway
The late Victorian turreted house was built in 1910 by Hartvig Engbretson.
It is considered high Queen Anne Style because of the three-storied turret.
The turret is topped by a “witch’s hat” roof and a ball-and-arrow finial.
The quality of the construction and craftsmanship of the house is astonishing.
The house is all brick and solid wood.
Multiple columns, which were favorites of Victorian houses, make up the front porch. The foundations for the porch columns are red granite, probably shipped in from neighboring Minnesota.
The house itself is constructed of firebrick. Firebrick is a more expensive, durable and harder brick. It is often used for fireplace cavities. Not many houses are built of firebrick. The bricks have never been tuck-pointed. The house is finished off in trim colors of cream and brown.
The house is three floors, totaling 3,000 square feet.
The rooms are spacious with wooden floors – oak on the first floor, Douglas fir on the second floor, and a Canadian maple floor was installed by the family on the third floor.
Dean & Lois Humpal bought the Hartvig Engbretson mansion in 2005 and operated it as a B & B until 2016.
When Dean & Lois first saw the house they fell in love with it. They decided they would buy it as investment rental property. The purchase was made.
Both Dean and Lois are from the surrounding area. Dean is a driver for Yellow Transportation Inc. out of Overland Park, Kansas, working out of the La Crescent, Minnesota & La Crosse, Wisconsin area. Lois is a nurse at Winneshiek Medical Center, OB Department, and Hawc Partnerships for Children in Decorah, Iowa.
They have a family of six children and two grandchildren.
Together, with their family, friends, and lots of other help – the renovations began.
When Dean & Lois bought the house in 2005, their idea was to use it as investment rental property. It was a duplex and was rental property. They would just continue the like – and then someday down the road turn it in into a “Bed & Breakfast”.
They soon found out that they could not get the rent needed to have the house pay for itself.
Thus, the renovation process began now! They took the house from being a duplex, and made four bedrooms and bathrooms on the second floor. The third floor, an old ugly attic, was turned into the “Royal Suite”. The first floor stayed as the living and dining area.
Major improvements of new wiring and plumbing were made, giving each bedroom its own private bathroom. Walls were taken out, and put in other places. Painting was done inside and out. Insulation and air conditioning were installed. Floors were refinished. Antique light fixtures were installed. And the outside was totally re-landscaped.
The house was now ready to be furnished. Since Dean & Lois have been long time antique collectors, they now had a place to showcase and share their treasures with others. Antiques and furnishings were put in place. Beds were made and bathrooms finished.
And in May of 2006 the “Bed and Breakfast on Broadway” opened its doors.
New Owners in 2017 - Matthew Nahan & Melissa Koch
Matthew is a mechanical engineer working for Lockheed-Martin (aka a rocket scientist). Melissa develops new and old (books) technologies for children, parents and teachers. They both love living in and working on old homes, and pursuing new adventures indoors as well as outdoors. They have one son, Axel, and a Labrador retriever, Zoe.