Several alert historic preservation alumni sent me this clipping a couple of weeks ago. Turns out the house that Grant Wood used in his famous painting “American Gothic” is threatened with demolition, according to Harry Mount, a writer in Eldon. Not only is the little white cottage with the big Gothic window is empty, boarded-up, and being offered by the State Historical Society for $250 a month, but there is little interest. One neighbor wanted to tear it down in the 1960s but balked at the $200 purchase price.
American Gothic is the most-parodied and recognized painting in American history. The thing that I never knew was that this little landmark house actually inspired the painting in the first place! Mount reports that Grant was driving by the house and burst out laughing at the pretension of this oversized Gothic window on this tiny cottage. Later, searching for a stern couple, he convinced his dentist and his sister to pose as the farmer and wife. His sister eve sued Johnny Carson and Playboy in the 1960s for running a version of the painting with the couple in tiny swimsuits, according to Mount.
You might think someone at the Art Institute of Chicago might be interested – after all, we got the painting, and Wood is our guy, but then again the problem with real estate is location, location, location and the house ain’t in Grant Park. In fact, one of the reasons they can’t rent the 3-bedroom house with decent Victorian details is that everyone in that neighborhood prefers the modernity of the modern mobile trailer home. The barn has already been demolished for three trailers. The only question now is how long until the 75-year old painting’s inspiration and setting turns into another trailer.