American Gothic House and American Gothic House Center

Come to Eldon, Iowa and view the exterior of the house that inspired Grant Wood to paint American Gothic, one of the most recognized paintings in the world. Tour the adjacent American Gothic House Center which showcases Grant Wood’s life and the history of the house. Props on hand encourage visitors to pose in front of the historic American Gothic House and create their own unique American Gothic portrait.

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Hollenbeck Hall and Wapello County Fairgrounds

The Big 4 Fair Art Hall, also known as Hollenbeck Hall, is an historic structure located in the Wapello County Fairgrounds in Eldon, Iowa. The fair, established in 1890, is one of the oldest county fairs in the state of Iowa. The building was built in 1911. The fair was suspended during World War I in 1917 and Hollenbeck Hall was used by the U.S. Army Signal Corps, Company C. The building has been completely restored and is used for exhibits during the fair. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.

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Lockkeeper’s House 

The Lockkeeper’s House is located near the City of Eldon, in Section 1 of Salt Creek Township in Davis County, Iowa. Historically, the resource was situated at this location for access and control over the river locks proposed to be built at Eldon. With the failure of the Des Moines River Navigation Company the project failed in the early 1841’s. Built in 1845 the Lockkeeper’s House consists of a 1 ¾ story, end gabled, solid masonry building. The building served only as a residence having never been used for the locks, which were never built. It has a two-over-two room plan and a masonry central dividing wall with a built in chimney.  The Lockkeeper’s House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 14, 2009.

McHaffey Opera House 

The McHaffey Opera House is an historic structure located in Eldon, Iowa. It was constructed in 1891 and in use by the community through the 1940s. The building was mainly unused for many decades until a volunteer community group bought the opera house in 1995 and began restoration efforts. The McHaffey Opera House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in November, 1995.

History

Irish immigrant David McHaffey was the proprietor of a brickyard in Eldon when, in 1891, he constructed the opera house using bricks from his business. With Eldon being on a main rail line, the McHaffey Opera House was able to secure a place on the “New York Circuit”, bringing in traveling theatre troupes presenting the latest Broadway plays. Other uses included local talent shows, political rallies, and high school graduation ceremonies. For a time, in the early 1900s through the 1920s McHaffey Opera House was even used for basketball games.

The last high school graduation ceremony was held at the McHaffey Opera House in 1941. By the 1940s Eldon had another outlet for movies leaving the McHaffey unused for that purpose. However flooding in 1947 damaged the newer theater, granting the Opera House one last chance to briefly show movies. Following that temporary reprieve the McHaffey Opera House went into a long period of dormancy, seldom used except for storage.

Rebirth

In 1995 a non-profit corporation of community volunteers formed to save and restore the McHaffey to usefulness after it sat vacant for nearly five decades. The restoration has been funded by some grants but largely by community efforts such as a thrift shop and yearly calendar sales.

 

Rock Island Depot

Dating back to the early 1870’s, Eldon’s Depot served the needs of both local travelers and the U.S. postal service. At one time, the mainline through Eldon carried at least six daily passenger trains while the K-D line carried one or more. For the many years that the U.S. mail was carried by the railroads, the Eldon Depot served as a delivery point for the Post Office. On November 2, 1902, the first run of the luxurious Golden State Limited carrying passengers from Chicago to Los Angeles was made. Included on that route was a stop in Eldon. Many years later it would seem most fitting that after nearly 100 years of service, the Eldon Depot saw its last passengers on February 20, 1968, when the Golden State Limited, making its final run, stopped in Eldon for the last time.

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