The Amana Colonies, Iowa
The National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places, the Amana Colonies Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Amana Heritage Society, the Iowa State Historic Preservation Office, the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers, and the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions (NAPC) invite you to discover the Amana Colonies, a historic utopian society located in the rolling hills of Iowa’s River Valley. The Amana Colonies were established shortly before the Civil War by a group of German-speaking European settlers who belonged to a religious group known as the Community of True Inspiration. Here they began a communal system of living divided into seven different villages, and encompassing over 20,000 acres of land. This latest National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary explores 31 historic places that illustrate the fascinating history of one of the longest lasting communal societies in the world.
This itinerary highlights the landscapes and elegantly simple, distinctive architecture of communal Amana, a period which lasted from 1855 to 1932. Amana villages originally consisted of 40 to 100 buildings. Visitors can stroll through Amana, the largest of the seven villages, and visit the Amana Woolen Mill andAmana Furniture Shop, originally a calico mill–two very important industries for the colonies. After learning more about this settlement’s history and culture at theMuseum of Amana History, visitors can enjoy a traditional German family-style meal at the Colony Inn Restaurant or the Ox Yoke Inn. Touring the other villages by car, visitors will pass through historic farmland and observe the imprint the colonists made on their landscape at places such as the Mill Race, a canal dug to provide waterpower for the mills, the Lily Lake, and groves of trees called Schulwalds. Barns and agricultural buildings were clustered together at the edge of each village; examples of this can be seen in West Amana, South Amana , and High Amana. Each village contained numerous dwellings, such as those inHomestead. Groups of about 30-40 people ate their meals at one of several village kitchens, like one in Middle Amana that is now the Communal Kitchen Museum. Adjacent to this building areHahn’s Hearth Oven Bakery, one of the several village bakeries that supplied fresh bread to the kitchens daily, and the Coopershop Museum, an example of the many trade buildings that were vital to daily life in Amana. Every village also had a general store, such as those in High Amana andWest Amana, and a school for children ages 7-14. But of course the focus of the colonists’ lives was their religion, and a church was an essential element of each village where services were held 11 times a week. The Amana Colonies have long been a popular destination for tourists, who were interested in learning about communal life. Several of these historic hotels and other historic communal buildings continue to offer lodging today, including the Die Heimat Country Inn, Lower South Hotel, and the Baeckerei Bed and Breakfast.
The Amana Colonies itinerary offers numerous ways to discover the historic properties that played important roles in the way the community functioned. Each property features a brief description of the place’s significance, color and historic photographs, and public accessibility information. At the bottom of each page the visitor will also find a navigation bar containing links to four essays that explain more about Utopias in America, the Origins of the Colonies, Communal Amana, and Amana Colonies Today. These essays provide historical background, or “contexts,” for many of the places included in the itinerary. The itinerary can be viewed online, or printed out if you plan to visit eastern Iowa in person.
Created through a partnership, the Amana Coloniesitinerary is an example of a new and exciting cooperative project. As part of the Department of the Interior’s strategy to revitalize communities by promoting public awareness of history and encouraging tourists to visit historic places throughout the nation, the National Register of Historic Places is cooperating with communities, regions and Heritage Areas throughout the United States to create online travel itineraries. Using places listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the itineraries help potential visitors plan their next trip by highlighting the amazing diversity of this country’s historic places and supplying accessibility information for each featured site. In the Learn More section, the itineraries link to regional and local web sites that provide visitors with further information regarding cultural events, special activities, and lodging and dining possibilities.
The Amana Colonies Convention and Visitors Bureau is the seventh of more than 30 organizations working directly with the National Register of Historic Places to create travel itineraries. Additional itineraries will debut online in the future. The National Register of Historic Places and the Amana Colonies Convention and Visitors Bureau hope you enjoy this virtual travel itinerary of the historic places in the Amana Colonies.