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Where Art Meets Life: Visiting American Gothic House

Grant Wood painted “American Gothic” nearly 100 years ago, but the iconic home in the painting still stands in Eldon, Iowa. You can visit the American Gothic House (and even pose for your own version of “American Gothic”) the next time you’re in southeastern Iowa. Thousands do it every year, and after reading this post, I’m sure you will too!

The American Gothic House in Eldon, Iowa

Disclosure: My visit to American Gothic House took place during a media tour of the area. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own. This post may contain affiliate links. 

I wasn’t totally sure what to expect when I saw “Visit American Gothic House” on the itinerary of a recent visit to the area. Would we get to go in the house? Is it just the house and nothing else to see or do there? Would I need to buy a costume so I could recreate the scene? If you have similar questions, keep reading!

FYI: If you want to see the painting “American Gothic” in person, you can see it at the Art Institute of Chicago. We saw it when we visited the museum with the kids a few years ago! Read about the experience at Chicago’s big three museums here.

History of the American Gothic House

The American Gothic House (AKA the Dibble House) is located at 300 American Gothic St., Eldon, Iowa. The painter Grant Wood noticed the home in 1930 and its large Gothic window, and decided to sketch it. It eventually became the backdrop to the iconic painting, “American Gothic.” 

After the painting catapulted the house to fame, the American Gothic House has been preserved. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, ensuring its preservation and recognizing its importance in American art and culture.

Photos and Christmas cards of people and families posing in front of the American Gothic House

Over the years, the house has attracted thousands of visitors from around the world, curious to see the real-life inspiration for Wood’s painting. Many of those visitors posed for their own versions of the painting during their visits. The painting also inspired pop culture parodies over the decades. The American Gothic House stands not only as a piece of architectural history but also as a testament to the enduring impact of art on everyday life.

There is a Visitor Center near the home, and it’s there where you’ll learn the bulk of the home’s history, as well as information about Grant Wood, the models for the painting, and even about the style of painting of “American Gothic.” 

The exterior of the American Gothic House Visitor Center, with a statue of the two figures from the painting standing in front

The Visitor Center

The Visitor Center includes the exhibit space, gift shop and a media room where you can watch a 30-minute documentary. The exhibits were informative and many had interactive elements that kids will like. I personally liked all the parodies of “American Gothic” on display in the exhibit room, including magazine covers and celebrity photos. 

A gray sculpture inspired by "American Gothic"

The one must-do thing while you’re in the Visitor Center is the costume room. There, you can check out the clothes and props needed to recreate “American Gothic” in front of the iconic home. I’ve heard from friends after I shared my own picture, and they had stories about photos from the home. One friend’s parents used their photo for the annual Christmas Card.

Checking out the costumes is included with admission, but it’s not without some rules and guidelines. The last chance to check-out a costume is 3:30 p.m. each day. They also advise visitors to check the events calendar in advance, as the costumes may not be available during certain events.

Kim posing in a costume in front of the American Gothic House

Exploring the American Gothic House

To be honest, the interior of the American Gothic House is probably the least interesting thing on the visit. Sparsely decorated and only two rooms, it just doesn’t live up to the “Whoa” factor you get when you first see the house from afar. 

Still, there’s no harm in taking a guided tour to see for yourself what the home looks like on the inside. It’s surprising to look around the place after learning that a family with eight kids lived there. 

Planning Your Visit

Finding the American Gothic House is easy since there are several signs for it when you’re in the area. The best recommendation for getting to the home is to enter “Eldon, Iowa” into your GPS, and then start following the signs. 

Kim posing with the sculpture in front of the American Gothic House Visitor Center

The Visitor Center at American Gothic House is open year-round, but check the website prior to your visit to be sure there are no renovations or other possible closures. The current hours (which I imagine are off-season hours) are:

  • Mondays and Tuesdays: CLOSED
  • Wednesdays-Saturdays: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Sundays: 1 to 4 p.m.

The exterior of the American Gothic House is open from dusk to dawn.

If you want to see the interior of the house, it is only open on the second Saturday of the month from April through October from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (and that is assuming there is a volunteer available).

The admission cost to go into the Visitors Center is $5 for ages 13-59, $4 for ages 60+, and FREE for kids 12 and under, and Wapello County residents. I highly recommend going into the Visitors Center while you’re there. It provides an in-depth background of “American Gothic” and explains its significance quite well.

And another reason to go inside the Visitors Center: That’s where you can check out the costumes so you can pose for your own parody of “American Gothic.” Read the procedure guidelines for checking out costumes before your visit.

Activities and Attractions Nearby

I visited American Gothic House while on a weekend trip to Fairfield, an intriguing town about 25 miles away from Eldon. I highly recommend including Fairfield in your visit to the area, especially if you love good food. There are quite a few restaurants worth stopping for!

Fairfield is a pretty arts-centric town, as well as accommodating to outdoorsy travelers. Read my two-day Fairfield itinerary here.

Plan a visit to American Gothic House! Located in southeastern Iowa, you can learn all about the Grant Wood painting and pose in costume in front of the iconic home.

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