Urban Explorers Have Overrun Roseanne and Tom Arnold’s Abandoned Iowa Mansion

Pour one out for Roseanne and Tom Arnold’s $16 million dream home
Urban Explorers Have Overrun Roseanne and Tom Arnold’s Abandoned Iowa Mansion

These days, Roseanne Barr is probably best known for her racist rantsunhinged conspiracy theories and somehow getting fired from a show that was literally called Roseanne. But while those public embarrassments will eventually be lost to time like tears in the rain, one of Roseanne’s past debacles exists as a physical landmark: her unfinished Iowa mansion.

Back in 1993, Roseanne and Tom Arnold were still a happily married couple, so much so that they opened their own restaurant in the small town of Eldon, Iowa. Roseanne & Tom’s Big Food Diner served loose meat sandwiches, just like the restaurant belonging to Roseanne’s TV alter-ego. “It’s horrible for you, but people seem to like it,” Tom Arnold said of the food while speaking to reporters from the set of Coneheads (which may be the most ‘90s sentence ever written).

People waited in line for “more than two hours in 20 degree weather” when the diner first opened, buying up overpriced merchandise to be autographed by the celebrity owners. In addition to taking its cues from the fictional Lanford Lunch Box, the restaurant was decorated with photos of Roseanne and Tom, “even in the restroom.”

The Arnolds didn’t just open the restaurant out of a passion for the culinary arts, it was because they had decided to build a sprawling mansion on 1,700 acres of nearby farmland. But they quickly discovered that the only restaurant in town closed at 6:30 in the evening, and didn’t deliver, so they basically “bought the restaurant to get people to cook for them during their once-a-month retreats.”

The couple’s $16 million, “28,000-square-foot mansion” was set to be “the largest single family home in the state of Iowa” and a “self-contained utopia,” complete with a basement swimming pool and a pond full of electrical wiring to keep it heated. But the couple famously broke up in 1994, dooming the restaurant, which had become the town’s largest employer, and halting construction on the house.

Arnold decided to donate the property to “his alma mater, Indian Hills Community College,” and while the school occasionally used the land for “horticulture classes,” they eventually opted to sell it to a company called MJW Hawkeye LLC. According to the current property manager, the half-finished vanity palace was “too expensive to tear down” so the crumbling facade still remains to this day. 

Despite the fact that it’s considered private property, and extremely hard to reach due to the area’s lack of “finished roads,” that hasn’t stopped urban explorers and intrepid tourists from trekking out to the creepy relic of one of Hollywood’s most notorious failed relationships.

Some have even speculated that the sprawling property could be haunted — and really, how is it that not a single filmmaker has thought of making a Blair Witch-style horror movie in Roseanne and Tom’s abandoned love nest?

Or you could always just head to Indiana and check out Roseanne Conner’s more accessible, less-terrifying house. 

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter (if it still exists by the time you’re reading this). 


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