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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Eldon in Wapello County, Iowa — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
 

The American Gothic House

 
 
The American Gothic House Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., October 11, 2015
1. The American Gothic House Marker
Inscription.

The American Gothic House was built in 1881-82 by Catherine and Charles Dibble. The house is constructed in a style known as Carpenter Gothic (which lead [sic - led] to the title of the painting). The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Dibble House, a.k.a. the American Gothic House. Yearly tens of thousands of visitors come to see the house that was made famous as the backdrop of Grant Wood's painting, American Gothic.

The Gothic Windows
The house contains two gothic windows - the back window is a mirror image of the front. It is believed that the windows were purchased through the Sears catalogue [sic - catalog], but no one knows for sure why the Dibble Family chose windows that belong in a church. One theory is that among the struggles of life, this was one way the Dibbles were able to add a little beauty to their everyday lives. Also, the use of gothic windows follows the mid-19th century Carpenter Gothic style of the house.

The style grew out of a need for quickly-built homes and a desire for fanciful details. The price to add these details to wood-framed structures decreased significantly during this period, so even modest homes were able to incorporate extra elements. Identifying features of Carpenter Gothic style on the house are the steeply-pitched roof, the

Marker Plaza at the American Gothic House Center image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr.
2. Marker Plaza at the American Gothic House Center
board and batten siding, and pointed-arch windows.

The Curtain
Many visitors inquire as to why there is a different curtain hung in the window as is presented in the painting. In 1930 the house was owned by Mary Hart Jones (1855-1941) and Gideon Jones (1849-1937). When Mrs. Jones (age 75) saw Wood outside sketching her home in August 1930, she called her daughter to come help clean the house inside and out. They took down the lace curtains from the upstairs window, washed and stretched them. They then sat on the porch and waited but Wood never came back.

Wood decided he had everything he needed to compose his painting, so he did not return to make any further sketches. Imagine their surprise when Wood created his own curtain to use in the window! The curtain hanging in the window today was made to look as close to the curtain Wood imagined for the painting.

Has the House Been Moved?
To some who have visited in the past, the house appears to have been moved, but this is not the case. In reality the road in front was removed to build the trails and Center, which makes the house seem like it is in a different location.

In the 1960s and early 1970s there were discussions about moving the house to a more convenient location, but no action was taken. With its listing on the National Register of Historic Places (1974), ownership by

BannerB Enjoying The American Gothic House image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., October 11, 2015
3. BannerB Enjoying The American Gothic House
the State Historical Society of Iowa (1991), and the addition of the American Gothic House Center (2007), the house will remain in its original location.
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"American Gothic" House
1881 - 1882
This property is listed on the
National Register of Historic Places
Iowa Historic Site

American Gothic House, 1881
Donated to the
State Historical Society of Iowa
by the Carl E. Smith Family
Dedicated as a State Historical Site
February 14, 1991


 
Erected by American Gothic House Center, Humanities Iowa, Central Iowa Tourism Region, and Iowa State Historical Department.
 
Location. 40° 55.278′ N, 92° 12.83′ W. Marker is in Eldon, Iowa, in Wapello County. Touch for map. Marker is on the plaza just south of the American Gothic House, on the grounds of the American Gothic House Center. Marker is at or near this postal address: 300 American Gothic Street, Eldon IA 52554, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Grant Wood's Impact (here, next to this marker); The Artist, Grant Wood (here, next to this marker); American Gothic - The Painting
The American Gothic House Window image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., October 11, 2015
4. The American Gothic House Window
(here, next to this marker); Veterans Memorial (approx. half a mile away); McHaffey Opera House (approx. half a mile away); Doodlebug (approx. half a mile away); Charles M. Martin (approx. half a mile away); Gerald W. Fackler (approx. half a mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Eldon.
 
Also see . . .
1. American Gothic House Center, Eldon, Iowa. (Submitted on November 6, 2015, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. Dibble House (aka American Gothic House) National Register Info. (Submitted on November 6, 2015, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
3. Grant Wood at Grant Wood Art Gallery. (Submitted on November 6, 2015, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
4. Grant Wood: American Regionalist. (Submitted on November 6, 2015, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
 
Categories. Notable Buildings
 
The American Gothic (Dibble) House image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., October 11, 2015
5. The American Gothic (Dibble) House
The American Gothic House Center image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., October 11, 2015
6. The American Gothic House Center
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on November 5, 2015, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 141 times since then and 32 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on November 6, 2015, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.   2. submitted on November 5, 2015, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.   3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on November 6, 2015, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
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