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Ottumwa Stories: American Gothic House – More Than a Museum
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Ottumwa Stories: American Gothic House – More Than a Museum

The American Gothic House is a piece of American history, recognized by people around the world as the backdrop for Grant Wood’s painting of life in small-town Iowa. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a visit to the tiny white house in Eldon, Iowa, is a must-do on every traveler’s itinerary.

This iconic location is much more than just a background, though. The house and adjacent American Gothic House Center are the heartbeat of the community, home to many annual events and celebrations all year long. Here is just a snapshot of how 2019 will look at the American Gothic House

On April 20 from 1-3 p.m., the Center hosts the annual Easter Egg Roll, with competitions for kids and lots of Easter crafts.

American Gothic Days is held every year in June, a celebration event for the town of Eldon. From June 7-9, events include a 5K on Saturday morning, an art contest for all ages, the American Gothic Performing Arts Festival gala and a theater performance by the house.

This year the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) will be traveling from Centerville to Fairfield in July, and the Center is planning an event for bike riders coming through the area.

August 31 is Play Music on the Porch Day, an international event open to everyone. The Center hosts music and food for the public to make of day of it.

The Center’s yearly Halloween Party on October 26 includes crafts inside the house and fun outdoor activities in addition to plenty of candy.

On Gingerbread House Day, a family favorite in early December, children can visit the house, tour the museum and make their own gingerbread house to take home.

In celebration of Grant Wood’s February birthday, the Center holds a Birthday Bash at the local KD Center. The freewill donation meal includes soups, bread and dessert. Door prizes and games are always a huge hit.

The American Gothic House Center participates in Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day in September and candlelight yoga in the house several times during the year.

On May 3, The Center will be organizing the Brews and Brushes event at Hotel Ottumwa. Local artist Chris Abigt will give step-by-step instructions to create a painting, providing all the materials needed. Food and drinks are also available in the Grand Ballroom.

Open year-round, the American Gothic House Center features exhibits, a gift shop and a media room with educational films about Grant Wood. You can also use the American Gothic costumes and props to create your own reproduction of the famous painting.

For more information on all the great activities at the American Gothic House Center and to plan your own visit to southeast Iowa, visit

Image credit: Greater Ottumwa CVB

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