One winter morning a few weeks ago we had breakfast here in our dining room with Harold Pitz. His is a famous name in our hallways. Harold is the gentleman who, along with Harlan Geiger, (recently deceased), owned and remodeled this place into a B&B in 1960. Harold is no youngster but he has a vivid memory of days gone by and his descriptions of this place fascinated us. Harold Pitz Marc, who is now in an intimate relationship with the bones of this wonderful old building, was interested in things like "original footprint," "corner stones," and dates when various sections of the building were added.
Harold and Harlan purchased this building from a woman named Henrietta Roemig who owned the building as her private residence. These men saw the potential for the building to be used for lodging. The goal of remodeling the building was to add modern amenities, such as private baths, but keep the historic look of the place. For example, oil lanterns were converted to electric lanterns in the dining room and hallways.
Harold and Harlan ran a thriving business, then called Die Heimat Motor Inn, and were booked full much of the time. They had no competition. It seems hard to believe now, but there was nowhere else to stay overnight in the colonies.
Die Heimat Motor Inn was the first and only B&B in the seven colonies and there were no hotels until around 1965 when interstate 80 was built. At that time, the Amana Society saw its opportunity and bought property at the intersection of I80 and Hwy 151. There they built a Holiday Inn. Having a brand new hotel just 9 miles from Homestead where Die Heimat is located likely took some business away. But Harold says that Die Hiemat continued to thrive because "we really had a following" and many people returned again and again.
(Sometime after 1985 a third section was added – rooms 16, 17, and 18)
Breakfasts were not the same back then. They served a continental breakfast of coffee and pastries – a far cry from our full hot breakfasts of today. Breakfasts of 2016 include a hot dish (might be a quiche, baked egg dish, specialty pancakes, biscuits and gravy, sausage or bacon, breakfast wraps or any one of the creative dishes Janice and I come up with :) ), fresh fruit, old-fashioned oatmeal, homemade pastries, juices, coffee and tea.
Harold thinks the Amana refrigeration division of the Amana Society put the Amana Colonies on the map. The "Amana" name became known worldwide and people from all over started visiting the Amana Colonies and staying at Die Heimat Country Inn.
Over the years, other owners have come and gone. Jim Lloyd purchased Die Heimat from Harold and Harlan in 1975. Jim Lloyd was a household name in Marc's family while growing up because Jim hosted a radio talk show about food. Marc's mother loved listening to the Open Line on WMT (Cedar Rapids) and getting new recipes and sharing some of her own with other listeners. The amazing thing for us to discover was that Jim Lloyd broadcast his show from our current office, room #19. The Lloyds had rooms 16, 17, and 18 added in the mid-80s. Jim Lloyd Cookbook
We are honored to be part of a line of owners of Die Heimat who no doubt loved this place like we do. We are carefully and creatively fixing, restoring, and updating so that this continues to be a special place for guests. It is a pleasure to share Die Heimat with our guests who often love to learn the history of the building and hear stories of the past.