Grant Wood visited Eldon, Iowa back in 1930 and was impressed with a specific small house that had a large Gothic window. He made a quick sketch of the front facade with some scrap paper and then asked the owner if he could include his house in a painting. After agreeing, the owner thought that Grant would be making a return trip to Eldon. The owners even spent time cleaning up the house and yard – only to find that Grant Wood would never return to Eldon. He had exactly what he needed on that piece of scrap paper.
The house has had numerous owners and renters over the years until the last owners donated the house to the state. My understanding is that the house is still technically owned by the state of Iowa, but the visitor center is locally owned and operated.
The grounds are open 24 hours a day, but the house itself is only open on specific days and the visitor center is open Wednesday through Sunday, please verify their hours at: https://americangothichouse.org/
Address: 300 American Gothic Street, Eldon, IA 52554
What to expect in the American Gothic House visitor center
There are four parts to the visitor center:
Exhibition Gallery: This area has the history of the house, the history of Grant Wood, and the history of the American Gothic painting.
Media Room: A room with a 30-minute documentary for adults or a 17-minute cartoon version for kids.
Gift Shop: Lots of souvenirs and gifts relating to Iowa as well as Grant Wood.
Costumes: With your paid admission, you can borrow a costume and a pitchfork and head out in front of the house to make your version of the American Gothic painting.
Can you get inside the American Gothic House?
The first floor of the home is open once a month on the second Saturday between April and October.
Can you get to the second floor to see the gothic window up close?
No, at this time, only the first floor of the home is available to visitors.
Eldon Depot Railroad Museum
While you’re in Eldon, stop over at Eldon Depot Railroad Museum. It’s located at 405 Kd Ave in Eldon, Iowa. Admission is free. It’s housed in a restored Rock Island Depot and is home to some original memorabilia from Rock Island and KD Railroads.
The centerpiece is the 1275 Engine, which has the cab of the engine open during the summer months with an option to blow the whistle.