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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

What are the Amana Colonies?

The woolen mill in Amana
The Amana Colonies are not Amish communities. You won't find horse and buggies on the streets. What will you find? Seven villages set in 26,000 acres of rolling hills in the middle of Iowa, comprising the Amana Colonies.

General Store in High Amana
In the mid 1800's, German immigrants of the Community of True Inspiration, settled first near Buffalo, NY and then in Iowa. In Germany in the 1700s, the group had broken away from the Lutheran church and formed a faith-based community steeped in austere religious devotion. Unfortunately, the new church drew criticism and its followers were persecuted. When they decided to settle in America, the group acknowledged the need to pool the members' resources and formed a communal society.

The religion rewarded piety and a simple utilitarian lifestyle. Everyone worked for the common good, ate the same food, received the same medical care, lived in the same style of homes, and worshiped in the same church. No one received wages for work as there was no need for money. Individual communities formed for practical purposes. It made sense to live closer to farms and work. Since everyone ate in communal kitchens, it was convenient for residents to eat near their homes.

Winery in South Amana
The society flourished. It existed in communal form until 1932, when the Great Depression, a falling farm market and the need for jobs drove young people to the cities. The residents wanted to preserve their communities and made a group decision to re-form so

Store in Amana
Store in Amana
individuals could achieve their own goals. They formed the Amana Society to manage the land and businesses. Every resident received an equal share. Today the society preserves the lifestyle and the church is still intact.

Why should you visit? The residents have a loyal and fierce pride in their heritage. They have preserved their architecture and serene lifestyle in an often hectic world. The mill still operates, the residents still hone their crafts, and the farmers still work the land. The buildings - simple and beautiful in their wood, stone and brick construction - are a study in eye-appeal.

Residents love their vegetable and flower gardens. Many of the communal kitchens became private homes or bed & breakfast inns. The Amanas - Amana, Middle Amana, High Amana and Homestead - offer historical sites that educate visitors. They have been designated as a National Historical Landmark.

Plan at least a couple of days. Visit the candy stores, the old mill, the old general store, the blacksmith shop and the art galleries. Stay in a bed and breakfast, eat at the local restaurants, sample the lifestyle and leave feeling relaxed and happy.

Oh, and if you have a camera in hand, you can take a piece of their uniqueness home with you.

I plan to return!

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