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Consider this quote from Abe Lincoln

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."



     I hope everyone enjoyed the slightly cooler weather last weekend and took the time to get outdoors. As fall approaches of course we need to be mindful of the start of harvest and the slower traffic on the roads, but fall can be a great time to get out and visit a few of Iowa’s treasures. One of the many day trips I took recently included a stop in Eldon, Iowa which is near Ottumwa.

     Eldon is a small town with a rich railroad tradition. For many years the Keokuk to Des Moines division of the Rock Island was served by this small town which included a bunk house, depot and a small switching yard. Today the depot survives and has been restored for use as a museum, although the paint job and mural makes it hard to notice as a former depot. Across the space where the main line tracks once stood is a restored Rock Island Caboose and a number of other railroad related items.

     The real treasure in the town of Eldon though is the American Gothic house and visitor’s center. It’s a bit hard to find, but there are brown informational signs on the south end of the business district which lead you in the right direction. As you pull into the visitors center which sits on the end of the dead end street leading to the home, you instantly notice the plantings of beautiful wild flowers. This time of year they really are stretching their legs.

     Directly north of the visitor’s center stands the home made famous by Iowa’s own Grant Wood. It sits alone along a piece of long since abandoned street and what makes one stop and stare at in in awe for moments is the fact that it is so much smaller than one thinks it would be. The house certainly looks much larger in that iconic painting, but really is about the size of the house used by the Earlham historical society for their museum. In all honesty that was the one thing that was most hard for me to fathom, just how small it really is. It’s plain and unassuming frame is only accentuated by the gothic window that was purchased by the builders from Sears and added shortly after the house was built.

     Grant Wood who had been in Eldon saw the home and sketched it on the back of an envelope and the rest is history as they say. For that little unassuming home with the wide porch and gothic window became the setting for the painting that would set Wood’s career as an artist in motion.

     Today it is host to “Pitchfork Pies” and one has to have the patience of Job to get in the door to the front room which serves as the “merchandise counter”. Even with my love of pie, I wasn’t all that enthralled with standing in line so chose just to stand in the yard marveling at this little house. If you plan a trip down there be sure to go when the visitor’s center is open and bring your cameras. The center not only covers the history of the house and that of Wood’s career as Iowa’s most important artist, but also provides all the costuming you need (including pitchfork) to allow you to star in your own version of American Gothic. In fact the staff there will even take the picture for you!

     It’s just another of Iowa’s unique treasures that is out there to find, if you are up for a short drive and have a hankering for making your own fun. I can honestly say that I can’t believe I waited as long as I had for the chance to visit it, but it is somewhere I would certainly go back to again. So load up the kids and a few snacks and get out and find a little history treasure of your own.

See you next week. Remember….we’re all in this together.