Decorah, Iowa

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Decorah is a city in and the county seat of Winneshiek County, Iowa, United States.[1] The population was 8,172 at the 2000 census. Decorah is located at the intersection of State Highway 9 and U.S. Route 52.



Originally settled by the Day family in 1849, Decorah has become a center for Norwegian-American culture originating from a high number of Norwegian settlements beginning in the 1850s. Since 1862 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.

The city was named for Waukon Decorah, a Winnebago leader who was a U.S. ally during the Black Hawk War of 1832 and whose people were subsequently forced out of Wisconsin into northeast Iowa. Waukon, immediately east, seat of Allamakee County, is also named for him. The Day family and other early, non-native settlers were able to enter and acquire land in Decorah only after the Winnebago Indians were removed in 1848.[2]


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),[3], about 15 miles (20 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 6.4 square miles (16.7 km²), of which, 6.4 square miles (16.6 km²) of it is land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km²) of it (0.47%) 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.

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