Sunday, August 18, 2019

Rural Iowa: a Taste of the Netherlands and Carpenter Gothic

We had a long drive home from Des Moines, but we were able to swing by some interesting spots on the way.

I was impressed that there was a place as cool as Pella in rural Iowa. The town of 10,000 was founded by immigrants from the Netherlands, and they decided to show it. Many of the buildings are Dutch styled.

They have a little take-out-only Dutch restaurant called DutchFix.

Lydia ordered an interesting one: "Stampot, creamy mashed potatoes topped with traditional dutch spiced beef and dutch red cabbage slaw".

When I saw this thing, the Tulip Toren, I knew that this town was not messing around with this whole Dutch schtick. It says Tulip Time at the top, which I guess is some sort of annual Dutch festival. I guess it's so legit that Dutch royalty has been in attendance.

These madmen even had a fake little canal area set up.

And a windmill!

We continued our drive through Iowan country roads and I saw one of those cool brown roadsigns near Eldon, Iowa that indicates something awesome was afoot. It said "American Gothic House". Definitely going to that. I love road trips that include a bit of a time cushion. Lydia is a very plan oriented clock watcher, which is good because it makes it even more fun to destroy her plans with unexpected adventures!

We are fast becoming the foremost experts in Grant Wood. Because... we went to his studio home in Cedar Rapids that one time and then checked out a bunch of his work at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.

We first checked out the little museum, which told a little bit of the story of the painting and of the two people featured in it.

The model for the daughter (often mistaken to be the man's wife) was Wood's sister Nan Wood and the man was his dentist. I guess Wood lied and told the dentist that he wouldn't be recognizable, and so the dentist was pissed off about it like forever.

There were racks of clothes of different sizes and a few nice old lady volunteers there to slap it all onto us. We hustled out, they took a few shots of us, and that was that. I thought it was a super fun little American experience.

I guess Grant just sketched the house once because he was amused that that giant gothic window was sitting on such a dinky little house. He never returned to the house. I don't think that the models even met each other until years afterwards.

Wikipedia seems to think that this is Carpenter Gothic, where the "abundance of North American timber and the carpenter-built vernacular architectures based upon it made a picturesque improvisation upon Gothic a natural evolution. Carpenter Gothic improvises upon features that were carved in stone in authentic Gothic architecture."

And then, as Wikipedia research often causes, I really went down the rabbit hole of nerdery. I'd always wondered why the style was called "Gothic" in the first place, because the Goths were a Germanic tribe that destroyed the Roman Empire and surely weren't doing a lot of bathing let alone architecture. Sure enough, the term was used as an insult of a more German style of architecture by Italians and other fans of the more classic Roman style. It was meant to mean "barbaric". Very cool.

I think we did decently. I'm still a little annoyed that our photographer didn't tell me to look straight at the camera. There wasn't a painting out there to use as reference so I didn't really know what I was doing from memory. Oh well.

America can be pretty cool sometimes.

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