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Eldon, Iowa

American Gothic House

Home with Gothic windows featured in a famous painting. 

Made famous in the 1930 painting by Grant Wood, American Gothic—the one it seems just about everyone has seen at some point and the one that has been called one of the best paintings of the 20th century—this house in Eldon, Iowa, is not a popular photo spot.

Also known as the Dibble House, this home has a classic Carpenter Gothic design, which is why Wood chose it to include in his work, even though he only saw it once during his lifetime. The house is known locally as the Dibble House because it was first owned by Eldon resident Charles Dibble after its construction in 1882.

Dibble, a Civil War veteran and livery stable owner, built the house for his family, which included himself, his wife, and his eight children. When you consider the size of the family, the house, which is just 504 square feet, or about the size of a large studio apartment, is incredibly tiny. But it was fairly standard for the time period, as was the white color and batten siding that would make it famous decades later.

The windows on the upper level, the Gothic windows that would lend their name to Wood’s painting and are probably what inspired him to feature this home in his work in the first place, are believed to have been purchased from the Sears catalog. There are two prevailing theories: The Dibbles purchased the windows to make their home stand out during tough times or they were just following a trend in which homes were made more desirable with small extravagances.

The home remained a private residence all the way through most of the 20th century until it was donated to the State Historical Society of Iowa in 1991. Today, following a 30-year preservation effort, the home looks as it did in 1930 when Wood finished his painting in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and includes a visitors center to handle the tourist traffic coming through. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

Know Before You Go

The house is located on the east edge of town. To get there, take Hwy 16/Elm St. east. Turn left (north) onto Finney Ave., which curves and turns into American Gothic St. The house is on the left, opposite Burton St.