Fall is a beautiful time of year to discover the Iowa Byways — and what better time to tour the Grant Wood Scenic Byway than the 125th anniversary of his birth? Discover renowned American regionalist painter Grant Wood who grew up in Eastern Iowa, organized an artists’ colony at Stone City and was often inspired by the landscape.
Download the Iowa Culture mobile app or use the online version and select Featured to find arts, historical and cultural sites all along the byway. Here are some highlights of what you’ll find along the Grant Wood Scenic Byway:
Decker House Hotel
The Decker House Hotel was completed in 1878 and led to a rapid rise in population and prosperity in Maquoketa. James Decker, an entrepreneur from New York, had the hotel designed by W. W. Tucker. He wanted to capitalize on the increase of travelers bound to come to Maquoketa on county or commercial business. When the Decker House opened in 1878, it was the most elegant and substantial hotel in the community. The hotel is in operation today and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Hurstville Lime Kilns
Built in the 1870s by Alfred Hurst, the Hurstville Lime Kilns heated limestone rock mined from nearby quarries. Native limestone was heated in the kilns to form lime mortar used in the construction of homes, farm buildings, and public buildings throughout the Midwest. The kilns are built against the face of a bluff and stand 80–100 feet from each other. By the 1920s, the construction industry had adopted Portland cement over lime, because it possessed greater strength and lower absorbency than lime. Many of the buildings at the Hurstville complex have been lost, but four of the kilns remain.
The Antioch School, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a one-room schoolhouse that served the German and Irish neighborhood four miles east of Anamosa for 77 years. Famed artist Grant Wood (1892–1942) attended school at this building from 1897–1901. Wood lived on a nearby farm and began drawing at home with and continued this interest in school. The vivid scenery, common activities and agriculture from this time in his life were a basis for many subjects over the course of his successful career.
Stone City Historic District
The Stone City Historic District is nestled in a narrow section of the Wapsipinicon River valley. Three businessmen, Henry Dearborn, John A. Green and John Ronen, operated quarries in Stone City and built their estates overlooking the town. Locally quarried limestone was used for construction in a variety of buildings, structures and objects. Driving through Stone City today, you’ll find a historic commercial block, homes, St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church and the John Green estate, all built with limestone from the Stone City quarries. The Stone City Historic District is known for being the site of well-known Iowa Regionalist artist, Grant Wood’s artist colony.
Boot Hill Cemetery
Boot Hill Cemetery is the burial ground for the former Iowa Men’s Reformatory (now Anamosa State Penitentiary). Inmates without the means to provide for their burial, whose identities were unknown and a few by special request are interred at Boot Hill.