Greetings to all my readers,
After last week’s post about Pipestone, Minnesota, we travel on to the Amana Colonies in Central Iowa. Visitors have been traveling to these scenic seven villages for over 100 years. The colonies are known for their food, wines, beers, quaint shops, handcrafted products and the German culture. The pace of life is more relaxed and quiet in the Colonies than in the outside world. And it’s a warm and friendly place, gemuetlichkeit as the German’s say it, a sense of belonging.
The origin of the Amana Colonies began in Germany in the 1700’s as religious movement called Pietism after a split with the Lutheran faith. It later became known as the Community of True Inspiration. Due to persecution and an economic depression, the community was forced to look for a new home. They left Germany for the US in the mid 1800’s to find religious freedom in the US, pooling their resources to purchase 5000 acres of land near Buffalo, New York. When more farmland was needed for the growing community, the Inspirationalists found reasonably priced land in Iowa. They named their community, Amana which means to “remain true” based on the Song of Solomon 4:8. Six villages (East Amana, West Amana, South Amana, Middle Amana, High Amana, and Amana) were established on the original 26,000 acres with the seventh, Homestead, added a few years later giving the community access to the railroad. The villages were only a mile or two apart allowing for sharing and easy communication. For nearly 100 years, the Amana Colonies operated as a commune where property and resources were shared. Farming and the production of wool and calico supported the community but also included crafts such as furniture and clock making, brewing, baked goods, meats, and orchards. Due to the economic depression, the Colonies set aside their communal way of living to pursue more individual goals. They established a profit sharing corporation, the Amana Society, Inc. to manage the farmland, mills and larger enterprises. The religious intent was maintained in the Amana Church.
Today the villages are representative of the American dream come true, a thriving community based on religious faith and a strong community spirit. The Amana Colonies were declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965 that attracts hundreds of thousand visitors a year to celebrate the past and the future.
Let’s take a tour around the Colonies. Your first stop should be the Amana Colonies Visitor Center in Amana with the decorative couple standing guard! The staff are very friendly and helpful, pointing out things to do based on your interests, something for just about everyone. Note the message on the post: May Peace Prevail On Earth.
This photo is of the main street in the village of Amana. All locally owned shops in older, well maintained buildings.
I stopped by this interesting garden center and barn quilt shop. Had a nice chat with the owner about plants and garden art. A must stop when in Amana.
The community has a woolen mill with a company store. There is a very good continuous running video that describes the changes in the mill’s history.
Quilting is also a thriving craft in the Amana community. We made stops at all the quilt shops in the villages and I can tell you that Donna didn’t leave any of the stores empty handed!
Even the barn is decorated with a quilt design!
A few more scenes from the village of Amana.
We stopped by a store that specialized in old fashioned broom making. Had an interesting talk with the guy making the brooms. He told me that the best broom maker was an elderly lady who still worked a couple of days a week, could make brooms faster and better than he could.
And outside this store was a tractor decoration buried in the ground, I did a double take when I saw this installation!
We also stopped by one of the many furniture makers in the Colonies. We were allowed to wander through the dusty and cluttered workshop where we chatted with the son of the owner. I was in this store over 20 years ago and purchased a Minneapolis Moline desk pen set for my Dad who was a big fan of Minneapolis Moline farm machinery. After he passed a few years back, my Mom gave me this set back. Will always remember this store.
You may have heard of Amana appliances, yes the Colonies is it’s home and was started by the Amana Society as employment for their residents as farming became more mechanized. The Amana brand is now owned by the Whirlpool Corporation with a factory in Middle Amana.
As one travels from village to village, you can’t overlook the beautiful countryside as depicted in this photo. The cows and sheep grazing, kinda of reminded me of the English and Scottish countryside.
Thanks for going the brief tour of the Amana Colonies, it’s a recommended relaxing stop when visiting central Iowa.
Take care and until next week,