American Gothic is a rather famous painting named for the house in the background. That house is an excellent example of the Carpenter Gothic style. In the late 19th century, the Gothic style made a comeback, and Carpenter Gothic was a purely American application of this revival. It was seen in just about every kind of building, but most predominately in churches.
Some of the world’s most massive buildings are the Gothic cathedrals built competitively by old European towns. In America, we don’t have as many cathedrals, but we do have enormous barns. Hay and animals have to be kept somewhere in winter. Barns are interesting buildings, because some people take the time to build elaborate structures, while others settle for something more economical.
The Star Barn is one of the most striking barns and purest examples of Carpenter Gothic architecture in Pennsylvania. Colonel John Motter built the Star Barn in the 1870’s. He raised thousands of horses to sell to the U.S. Cavalry, and used the barn to keep his prize specimens.
The Elizabethtown Historical Society commissioned this painting, as the Star Barn has recently been relocated to Elizabethtown, PA.