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 board and batten siding, and pointed-arch windows.
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 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.
"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