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Decorah, Iowa facts for kids

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Decorah, Iowa
City
Downtown Decorah
Downtown Decorah
Location of Decorah, Iowa
Location of Decorah, Iowa
Country  United States
State  Iowa
County Winneshiek
Area
 • Total 7.04 sq mi (18.23 km2)
 • Land 7.01 sq mi (18.16 km2)
 • Water 0.03 sq mi (0.08 km2)
Elevation 879 ft (268 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 8,127
 • Estimate (2012) 8,109
 • Density 1,159.3/sq mi (447.6/km2)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP code 52101
Area code(s) 563
FIPS code 19-19405
GNIS feature ID 0455839

Decorah is a city in and the county seat of Winneshiek County, Iowa, United States. The population was 8,127 at the 2010 census. Decorah is located at the intersection of State Highway 9 and U.S. Route 52, and is the largest community in Winneshiek County.

History

Decorah Iowa panoramic view
Panoramic view of Decorah, 1908

Decorah was the site of a Ho-Chunk village beginning around 1840. Several Ho-Chunks had settled along the Upper Iowa River that year when the United States Army forced them to remove from Wisconsin. In 1848, the United States removed the Ho-Chunks again to a new reservation in Minnesota, opening their Iowa villages to white settlers. The first whites to settle were the Day family from Tazewell County, Virginia. According to local Congregationalist minister Rev. Ephraim Adams, the Days arrived in June 1849 with the Ho-Chunks' "tents still standing—with the graves of the dead scattered about where now run our streets and stand our dwellings." Judge Eliphalet Price suggested that the Days name their new settlement Decorah after Ho-Chunk leader Waukon Decorah, who was a U.S. ally during the Black Hawk War of 1832.

During the 1850s and 1860s, Decorah grew quickly as settlers built dams and mills to harness water power at Dunning's Spring and other local streams. In 1851, the town became the county seat of Winneshiek County. Decorah also became the site of a U.S. Land Office from 1855 to 1856, making it a destination for immigrants seeking land patents in northern Iowa. The Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad opened a branch to Decorah in 1869.

Vesterheim2006
Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum

Decorah has become a center for Norwegian-American culture originating from a high number of Norwegian settlements beginning in the 1850s. Since 1861 it has been the home of Luther College, a liberal arts institution affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Each July Decorah is also the host of Nordic Fest, a celebration of Norwegian culture with ethnic dancing, food, and music. Decorah is also the home of the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, the largest museum in the country devoted to one single immigrant group. Until 1972, one of the largest Norwegian language newspapers in the nation was published in Decorah, the Decorah Posten.

Geography

Decorah is located at 43°18′06″N 91°47′25″W / 43.30167°N 91.79028°W / 43.30167; -91.79028 (43.301795, -91.790218), about 15 miles (24 km) south of the Minnesota-Iowa border. It is the northernmost major community located along U.S. Route 52 in Iowa. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 7.04 square miles (18.23 km2), of which, 7.01 square miles (18.16 km2) is land and 0.03 square miles (0.08 km2) is water. The Upper Iowa River flows through the city en route to the Upper Mississippi River. The river is faced by steep bluff characteristic of the Driftless Area.

Impact Crater

About 470 million years ago, an asteroid as big as a city block smashed into what is now Decorah, supporting a theory that a giant space rock broke up and bombarded Earth just as early life began flourishing in the oceans.

The impact dug a crater nearly four miles wide that now lies beneath the town, said Bevan French, one of the world’s foremost crater hunters and an adjunct scientist at the National Museum of Natural History.

The Decorah crater lay undiscovered until recently because almost none of it is above ground. Instead, it is filled by an unusual shale that formed after an ancient seaway sluiced into the crater, depositing sediment and an array of bizarre sea creatures that hardened into fossils. One such creature is Pentecopterus decorahensis, which was named for the city.

Demographics

Decorah historical population
Year Pop. ±%
1860 1,920 —    
1870 2,110 +9.9%
1880 2,951 +39.9%
1890 2,801 −5.1%
1900 3,246 +15.9%
1910 3,592 +10.7%
1920 4,039 +12.4%
1930 4,581 +13.4%
1940 5,303 +15.8%
1950 6,060 +14.3%
1960 6,435 +6.2%
1970 7,237 +12.5%
1980 8,068 +11.5%
1990 8,063 −0.1%
2000 8,172 +1.4%
2010 8,127 −0.6%
2014 7,957 −2.1%
2015 7,907 −0.6%
Source:
Source:
U.S. Decennial Census

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 8,127 people, 2,855 households, and 1,527 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,159.3 inhabitants per square mile (447.6/km2). There were 3,121 housing units at an average density of 445.2 per square mile (171.9/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 94.6% White, 1.5% African American, 2.2% Asian, 0.6% from other races, and 1.0% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.0% of the population.

There were 2,855 households of which 21.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.4% were married couples living together, 6.8% had a female householder with no husband present, 2.3% had a male householder with no wife present, and 46.5% were non-families. 38.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.09 and the average family size was 2.76.

The median age in the city was 29.6 years. 14.3% of residents were under the age of 18; 32.1% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 15.3% were from 25 to 44; 19.5% were from 45 to 64; and 18.7% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 46.1% male and 53.9% female.

2000 census

As of the census of 2000, there were 8,172 people, 2,819 households, and 1,561 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,275.9 people per square mile (492.2/km²). There were 2,968 housing units at an average density of 463.4 per square mile (178.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 95.99% White, 1.13% African American, 0.10% Native American, 1.60% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.42% from other races, and 0.76% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.30% of the population. 34.0% were of Norwegian, 30.3% German, 5.4% English and 5.2% Irish ancestry according to Census 2000.

There were 2,819 households out of which 22.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.9% were married couples living together, 6.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 44.6% were non-families. 37.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.13 and the average family size was 2.80.

In the city the population was spread out with 15.0% under the age of 18, 31.4% from 18 to 24, 17.8% from 25 to 44, 17.0% from 45 to 64, and 18.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females there were 81.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 78.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $37,485, and the median income for a family was $49,668. Males had a median income of $33,362 versus $22,399 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,351. About 2.7% of families and 8.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 2.9% of those under age 18 and 9.4% of those age 65 or over.

Parks and recreation

Each July Decorah is the home of Nordic Fest, a celebration of Norwegian culture. Decorah is also the home of the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. This museum is the largest Norwegian museum in the United States.

Natural features include Dunning's Spring, Ice Cave, and Siewers Spring. The city is home to several parks built on bluffs, particularly Phelps Park, Palisades Park, and Pulpit Rock. Until 2003, Decorah had a community ski area, the Nor-Ski Runs Ski Area.

Decorah is home to an operating trout hatchery as well as Twin Springs Park, the former home of the hatchery.

The Raptor Resource Center is located in Decorah. Each year they host a livestreamed webcam of a family of nesting bald eagles as they rear their young.

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