August 13, 2017 (by Angela)
Friday of last week (August 4th), the three of us moved to the RV park operated by the Amana Society in Amana, Iowa. I’d heard of the colonies, but I didn’t know anything about them. After a two-hour guided tour made available through the Visitor’s Center, Jim and I knew quite a bit more about them.
Here’s a brief bit of the history. The people who settled in the seven villages of Amana, High Amana, East Amana, West Amana, South Amana, Middle Amana, and Homestead were of German origin. Even today, this area is known as the Amana Colonies. They came to America, led by a man named Christian Metz, in search of religious freedom that they practiced living as families in communal groups. After leaving Germany, these immigrants first settled in western New York, but later the group decided to come to Iowa. Initially, the folks purchased as much available land as was available. Over time, the communities land holdings grew to 26,000 acres. In terms of religion, each community had a church but no dedicated ministers served. Instead, elders in the churches took turns delivering messages on Sunday and leading the people spiritually. Children attended school until age 14, and then each was assigned to learn a skill or trade in the community. All who were physically able worked. Each village had a number of community kitchens where food was prepared and served three times a day, seven days a week. Credit in the general stores was issued for each family to meet their other needs. The homes in which the people lived only had bedrooms and living rooms unless the residence included some other community function, such as one of the community kitchens. In 1932, having been hit hard by the Great Depression and the destruction of their flour mill due to fire (with no insurance), the people voted to end their communal lifestyle, which had been practiced in Germany and the United States for about 200 years. At this point, the Amana Society, Inc. was formed to deal with much of the land holdings and some of the business ventures, like Amana appliances. Members now could choose to purchase homes or rent apartments, buy businesses, etc. Each would earn his or her own way. The German influence is still very much alive in the communities. Jim and I enjoyed the food, the history, and the culture.
(Photos are below. Remember to click on, or hover cursor over, the picture to read the caption.)
The Amana RV park in which we stayed is very large. I don’t know exactly how many RV and tent sites are in it, but while we were there, 200 or so rigs arrived for the 2017 Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) rally. While their presence was certainly noticed, even with others like us, the park was in no way full. Across from the west entrance is the old creamery, which is now the location of live theater performances.
Jim and I highly recommend the tour we took. It lasted 2 hours, and we visited 6 of the 7 villages. The driver/guide gave us information all the while we traveled, and it included access to 4 of the historic sites in the colonies. It only cost each of us $20, and they even threw in a bottle of water.
As a part of our tour, we got to visit a remaining communal kitchen. The lady who gave us the tour of the kitchen, Ms. Emily, is 90 years old. She loved sharing the story. Breakfast, dinner (some of call this lunch), and supper (some of us call this dinner) were served here 7 days a week, 365 days a year, to about 40 people.
We ate out way too much while there, but it was good food. I have identified which of the eateries I preferred for the various meals: breakfast, dinner (lunch), and supper (dinner). While I enjoyed looking around and shopping a bit here and there, I’ve shown my favorite shopping spot below.
Last, but not least, enjoy the trails and wildlife in the area. In particular, I recommend the approximately 3-mile loop around the Lily Pond. Chewie and I even encountered a family of swans who live in the pond along with Canadian geese and other birds, rabbits, chipmunks, etc.
A visit to the Amana Colonies was something we lucked into doing. Jim and I were looking for a nice campground about 3 hours away from the hospital for which he is working in Illinois because he needed to be on site for three days, but we wanted to camp in Iowa. I’m so glad fate/luck led us to spend a week in the Amana Colonies. We recommend it to you, also.