There are SEVEN villages of the Amana Colonies
There is a lot more to see in the seven villages of the Amana Colonies than you might think. It’s easy to make a quick stop in Amana and completely miss out on the treasures of the other six smaller villages.
Let me introduce you to the “outer” villages. There are seven of them – each unique and interesting. Six of the villages include “Amana” in their name, with Homestead being the odd one out. The others are South Amana, West Amana, High Amana, Middle Amana, Amana, and East Amana. You can see all but East Amana when you travel the 17 mile loop that includes parts of Hwy 6, 220th trail, and Hwy 151.
Homestead, where we live, is the only village without “Amana” in its name. That’s because it was already a little village when the Amana folks came in the 1850s. They purchased Homestead because the railroad went through here and that was crucial in shipping their goods in and out, from back east. Today, there are three places of lodging, including us—Die Heimat Country Inn, pictured here. There is also the Troy Thomas Art Gallery, https://troy-thomas.pixels.com/, the old Homestead Cider Mill (which doesn’t make cider anymore, but where old-timer Harry Heldt still enjoys visiting with guests), the Homestead Church, http://www.amanaheritage.org/, which is part of the museum system, and about 150 inhabitants along one main street. Talk about quiet!
AJs Copper Garden is located in Homestead too. They create the most beautiful garden art out of copper and then paint it with automotive quality paint right in the studio beside the store front. http://www.ajscoppergarden.com/
Five miles to the west is South Amana, where Schanz Furniture and Refinishing is located. Amana is known for its quality craftsmanship and furniture making. The furniture is gorgeous and each piece is still made exclusively by one artisan—no assembly lines here! Norm Schanz is a talker and will take you into his workshop and show you what he is doing and tell you interesting stories. Make sure you have plenty of time to stay and chat. http://schanzfurniture.com/
South Amana is also home to the famous Fern Hill Gifts and Quilts. https://fernhill.net/ My, oh my, the fabrics they carry! Over 4,000 bolts for quilters including the famous “Frond Designs” where artist Stephanie Brandenburg turns her hand-painted art into beautiful fabric. Quilters go nuts in this store. They also have antiques, gifts, jewelry, fudge and a little corner where you can get a piece of pie should you be with someone not as enthralled with quilting as you! South Amana is also home to the Mini-Americana Barn Museum (wonderful wood-carved miniatures) http://barnmuseum.com/, Johnson’s Lower South Antiques, and South Amana Mercantile.
On Friday nights in the summer South Amana hosts “The Great South Amana Swap Meet” (like a flea market) near the old Post Office in the center of the village. There’s food and a live music under the large oak tree. This is a new event and becoming quite popular.
At South Amana, you make a turn north and head a few miles to West Amana. Local water color artist, Michelle Maring Miller has renovated the Old West Church into her home and main studio. West Amana also has the Basket and Broom Shop owned by the Schanz family I mentioned earlier. Joanna Schanz is a basket weaver and teaches willow weaving to people from across the country. A broom maker comes several days a week to demonstrate his craft. I never knew there were so many specialty brooms, but these are the best!
High Amana is located just two miles east of West Amana. High Amana is home to the High Amana General Store and the Arts Guild where local artisans work is on display and for sale.
The High Amana General Store is really a museum and a general store in one. Stepping inside takes you back to the 1800s when it was established and very little has changed. They carry handmade soaps, housewares, hard-to-find items, books, toys and gifts.
The Arts Guild showcases historic Amana folk arts and proclaims “everything handmade in the Amana Colonies”. The Arts Guild also offers a series of intensive weeklong and weekend Art Iowa Workshops for college graduate credit or just for personal enrichment. https://amanaartsguild.com/
The guild also sponsors several summer events; The Festival of the Arts and Woodfest. CLICK HERE to get more information on those events.
A few more miles down the road and you are in Middle Amana. You’ll notice the large Whirlpool campus off to the right. They still make Amana Refrigerators and hire around 4,000 people right here in this tiny rural area. The Amana refrigerators were originally made by George Forstner, an Amana native, but more recently the company has been owned by Maytag and now Whirlpool.
Members of the Amana Society Church worship at the church in Middle Amana. They choose between an 8:30 German service and a 10:00 English service. Church members are happy to welcome visitors. It is a unique experience to worship where men sit on one side of the aisle and women on the other, where they still sing acapella, sit on simple pine benches, and listen to the words of scripture as well as to the words of the inspired leaders of the past.
In Middle Amana you can visit the one remaining communal kitchen, (http://www.amanaheritage.org/), that remains just as it was, complete with a typical week’s menu listed. Beside the kitchen is Hahn’s Bakery where Doris gets up early to bake breads, cinnamon rolls, streusels and other seasonal specialty items in her hearth oven that has been operating since 1864. Be prepared, though: She usually sells out quite early in the morning and most guests visiting the area will not find her open once she sells out.
Heading east, we are back in Amana and then another three miles south back to Homestead. But that’s only six villages! Where is the seventh? East Amana is outside the loop and one mile east of Amana. There are no commercial stores here. Instead, you’ll find a lovely picturesque little village of homes. I think the view from the cemetery looking down across the Amana village and valley is one of the prettiest in the area. It’s definitely worth a stop.
Visitors can travel from village to village and tour the colonies on their own by watching for the black and white signs that mark the shops, museums, artists, and wineries. But I suggest you start with an organized tour. Village Voyage Tours leave from the Amana Visitor’s Center at 11:00am and 2:00pm each day Monday-Saturday during the main season of May-October. This year the Friday 11:00 tour includes an ample sampling lunch of foods from the communal days served in the only remaining Communal Kitchen in Middle Amana. You’ll travel in the comfort of the Amana mini-bus with a knowledgeable and entertaining guide giving you the inside stories of the past as well as insight into the culture and customs of today.
You’ll visit the museum and watch the award winning video about the history of the Colonies. You’ll visit several of the seven villages; visit a church where you’ll hear about the beliefs and simple faith of the Inspirationists. You’ll step back in time to when Amana was communal and visit a kitchen where villagers partook of three hearty meals a day plus two snacks prepared under the careful eye of the “kitchen boss” and her staff.
As you drive along, you will notice the beauty of the landscape, the lily lake, the flower gardens, the unique historic structures, as well as the friendly locals who are happy to welcome you and to share stories of this special place.