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Amana Colonies

Sample the simple life in the heart of the Hawkeye State

Step back in time to an era of simple, cooperative living during a visit to Amana Colonies. Situated 17 miles west of Iowa City, this community of seven villages planted on the Iowa prairie gives visitors a close-up insight into a self-sufficient German settlement that thrived for nearly a century.

The Amana Colonies were established in 1855 as a series of villages for the Ebenezer Society, a group of Pietists fleeing persecution in Europe. The villages strove to create a model of cooperative living. Residents supported one another with communal meals, assigned jobs and tasks, and a village council oversaw many of the Colonies’ functions. The economy was driven in large part by the production of wool and calico, cloth-making and handcrafting of household goods.

The Amana residents remained relatively self-sufficient until farming collapsed in the early years of the Great Depression. Residents were then compelled to establish economic relationships with outside communities in order to preserve their way of life.


A Living Time Capsule

The Amana Heritage Museum and Amana Colonies Visitors Center in the Amana village are both ideal first stops. Museum exhibits are displayed in three buildings, with open spaces reminiscent of the communal era. The Amana Community Church Museum, located in Homestead and housed in a 140-year-old place of worship, provides insight into the religious beliefs of the community as well as the history and architecture of the 1800s.

Ever wondered how hundreds of people were served at once in the days before microwaves? See how meals were served en masse at the Communal Kitchen and Coopershop Museum, which is displayed as it was when the last group meal was served in 1932.

Amana residents are known for their exquisite craftsmanship, which you can see firsthand at the Amana Furniture and Clock Shop. Walnut, cherry and oak are at the heart of many pieces, and they share space with the state’s largest clock selection on display, as well as a workshop-viewing gallery. For more unique treasures, visit the Broom and Basket Shop in West Amana.

At the heart of the Amana Colonies is its wool trade; the historic Amana Woolen Mill has been part of the community since its earliest days in Germany. The mill that stands today continues to be a source for prized wool and cotton blankets.

Although the life of a colonist in Amana demanded a great deal of work, the residents put ample time into cultivating the arts. That creative spirit remains alive today in the Iowa Theatre Artists Company, which runs shows from April to December at its 99-seat theater in Amana. The Colonies also love a good party, and anyone can attend one or all of the many festivals held there throughout the year. Winterfest, Maifest, Wurstfest and Oktoberfest promise days of food, family-friendly activities and entertainment.

One of the colonies’ popular stops is the general store. Built in 1858 and once a crucial part of the community’s economy, today the general store stocks its shelves with locally-made and sourced products, as well as imported treats. The Creative Colony offers more gifts and treasures created by local artisans, from primitive household accessories to contemporary arts and crafts.


Amana Homes and Gardens

Amana Colonies embodies a treasured style of rural American architecture. This design style has been neatly captured in the 1/12-scale replicas of woodworker Henry Moore’s pieces, whose works are on display at the Mini-Americana Barn Museum in South Amana. No detail is spared in the construction of these miniature marvels. Cedar shingles top the buildings, and the windowpanes are fashioned from glass and dressed with curtains. Young ones can let their imaginations run wild as they peruse the scenes filled with more than 3,000 figures representing livestock, people, farm equipment and more.

For More Information

Amana Colonies Visitors Center




Iowa Tourism Office