Trip to American Gothic House

The most recognizable painting in the world is the Mona Lisa. The second most recognizable one is the American Gothic painting.

The artist's name is Grant Wood, who grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

KHQA's Chad Douglas discovered for his Points of Interest series, it has some ties that are close to the Tri-States.

Our first point of interest takes us to Eldon Iowa. It's about two hours from Quincy. It's home to the American Gothic House. What is that you ask? It's the house that is in the background of the American Gothic painting, but it's actually the focal point of the art work.

The American Gothic painting is one of the most parodied pictures in history. It actually came about kind of by accident. Grant Wood was visiting Eldon, Iowa in 1930. A local was taking him on a tour, hoping the artist could find something to paint. When the two drove by this farmhouse, Wood noticed the large gothic window on the second floor. Wood was so impressed with such a fancy window in such a small house, he sketched it out. He came back the next day and sketched the rest of the house. He later seperately sketched his sister Nan and his dentist back in Cedar Rapids. He put the three together and viola, American history is born. Fast forward to more present times, 2007 to be exact, this visitor's center was opened so people could enjoy the famous farmhouse.

Holly Berg says, "I think the center is for everyone of all ages and different interests. If you have an interest in art, you can learn about Grant Wood and his paintings. If you have an interest in history, you can learn about the history of the town and history of Grant Wood."

Shirley Gooch and Barb Kristoffersen are longtime friends who met in college in Kirksville. They both became art teachers, and this summer they are road trippin' and tracing the life of Grant Wood. I met them at the American Gothic House.

Shirley Gooch says, "It's a rare jewell. It's amazing what they've done with this. Preserving the history and preserving the authenticity of it. It's very classy and it's very beautiful. It's very people and children friendly."

Barb Kristoffersen says, "Don't expect a mansion. It's a 900 square foot, little farm house. Two story. It has two gothic windows. The famous one in the front, and there's one on the backside too."

You don't tour the actual house, but there is plenty to do in the visitor's center. There are several exhibits, which do change, so you can visit often. There are exhibits on Grant Wood as an artist, one on the house itself, and some on the town of Eldon. There's also a gift shop.

One of the best parts is you can dress up in period clothes and have your picture taken in front on the house and pretend you're in the painting.

Holly Berg says, "Every now and then there's a dad or a teenager who's a little reluctant. Once they get dressed up, they get really into it. Even if they're slightly embarrassed, they still have a good time."

Renting the costumes is free, actually admission to the visitor's center is free.

Barb Kristoffersen says, "This should be on everyone's bucket list. If you live in the United States of America, you should visit the Gothic House."

Summer hours are from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm Tuesday through Saturday and from 1:00 to 4:00 pm Sunday and Monday. You can learn more by visiting

Holly Berg is the Administrator of the Visitor's Center. She says when you visit, you can follow your GPS's instructions to get to Eldon. Once you actually get in town, ignore what your GPS says and follow the large brown signs. They will point you in the right direction. I can't let you go without telling you what's actually *inside* the American Gothic House.

That's where Beth Howard lives. Beth is an author and pie baker. Last summer she was in the process of moving from Portland, Oregan to Los Angeles, when she came home to Iowa to visit the state fair. She stumbled across the American Gothic House, found out it was for rent, and snatched it up. She admits, she grew up 15 minutes away in Ottumwa and had no idea this iconic house was there. She writes a blog called The World Needs More Pie, she has a book coming out in April, and in her spare time she bakes pies inside the American Gothic House.

Beth Howard says, "I share the recipe with everybody because I think everyone should learn to make pie and not be afraid of how to make dough. I preach this thing where pie is not about perfection, it's about facing your fears and making something with your own hands and sharing it with others."

Beth sells pie out of the American Gothic House on the weekends or whenever there's a good crowd there...just look for the pie sign in her yard. She also teaches pie baking classes in the house, but like I said earlier, you can't take tours of the house, but the whole point of interest is a fun and tasty trip.

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