American Gothic House and Visitor Center

American Gothic House and Visitor Center

By Natalie Maughan

The American Gothic painting by Grant Wood is an American icon when it comes to artistic paintings. The world famous portrait of a farmer holding a pitchfork and his daughter looking sullen behind him as they stand in front of their small farmhouse is one of those poses that people try to recreate again and again. The Farmer looks as though he’s trying to ward off any potential suitors for his daughter and she does not appear to appreciate the gesture.  If you’ve been to the Iowa State Fair it’s hard to miss the 25-foot replica of the father and daughter. There is usually a cardboard cutout of the duo somewhere at the fair as well. Don’t we all love the Iowa State Fair? But that’s for another day…

Photo courtesy of American Gothic House Center

Famous Painting has Strong Iowa Ties

Did you know this painting has strong ties to Iowa? The painter, Grant Wood, was an Iowa native and painted many scenes of Midwest life. The house in the background of this picture is an actual house that Wood visited in Eldon, Iowa. He thought the gothic window was so unique to typical farmhouses and became inspired to use it in one of his paintings. His sister and his local dentist (no joke) were the models for the work. They posed separately for the painting and Mr. Wood promised that they would not be recognizable in the painting. His sister looks much older in the painting than she actually was at the time but the dentist looked about the same. The dentist was not too pleased with this fact and it ended up hurting their relationship.

American Gothic House and Visitor Center -
Photo by Natalie Maughan

FREE Visitor Center

This house still stands and you can visit the home as well as a Visitor Center right next door in Eldon, Iowa which is about two hours southeast of Des Moines. The iconic house is a private residence so visitors are invited to see the outside only. No entry into the house is allowed. Hence, they have a Visitor’s Center. There is a life-sized statue of the farmer and daughter out front of the Center and numerous artifacts and information inside. You can learn all about Grant Wood and how American Gothic launched his painting career. They have various costumes and pitchforks and glasses you can dress up in and snap a personalized picture of your own version of American Gothic.

American Gothic House and Visitor Center -
Photo by Natalie Maughan

Check it off Your Bucket List

If you are an art enthusiast or you are looking to culturalize your children or just out to check off one of the Iowa sights on your bucket list this is a place to stop and take a look. To give you some reference point, the closest town is Ottumwa. Eldon is one of those towns that you pass on your way to somewhere else. However, if you are headed to Illinois or northeastern Missouri or you have grandparents around the area it’s definitely worth a stop. Perhaps you can add it to your summer road trip list for this coming summer on your way to the beach or the mountains.

Make sure you check online or give them a call to make sure they are open. The gentleman we visited with while we were there told us that it has become harder and harder to find volunteers for the sight. They have cut back on some of their hours so just give them a call before you plan your trip. They are wonderful people who are very passionate about their town’s history and relics and would love to have visitors. Plus, it’s FREE to visit and yes, they do accept donations. So get out there and support our local Iowa historical sights.


American Gothic House Center

Eldon, Iowa
Tuesday-Saturday 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Sunday-Monday 1:00 to 4:00 pm
(641) 652-3352



Have you visited the American Gothic House and Visitor Center in Eldon? Let us know your experience below.


Natalie Maughan and her hubby moved around a bit before landing in the Des Moines area three years ago. She is the mother of three girls and loves spending time with each one of them. When the stars align and there is some free time, she enjoys reading, sewing, cross stitching and embroidery work.  She and her family love everything about Iowa and find it to be a wonderful place to raise a family. Iowa has become home.

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