Words inspired by the backroads of America

Communing in the Amanas

Hand-quarried sandstone homes with traditional wall-mounted grapevine trellises, hand-crafted baskets and brooms and a four-star golf course.  Those some of the reasons we chose Amana, Iowa for a location to meet my sister and her husband for a few days of get-away.  It also fit the criteria of being relatively half way between Minnesota and Kansas. 


The Amana Colonies are an interesting study in perseverance and religious ideals.  In 1855, a religious communal sect, originally from Germany, established six villages along the banks of the Iowa River in east-central Iowa.  A seventh was established in 1861 to give access to the railroad line making its way across the state.  The Amana Colonies became one of America’s longest-lived and largest religious communal society.  Homes, medical care, schooling, meals and household necessities were taken care of with all men and women assigned jobs by the village council.  Men worked the fields and became craftsmen.  The women were assigned the cooking and domestic tasks.  All residents gathered for three meals a day at over 50 communal kitchens and attended 11 worship services each week.  In 1932, due to economic and cultural pressures, the communal life was abandoned in favor of a profit-sharing corporation called the Amana Society, Inc., set up to manage the farms and larger enterprises.  Now a National Historic Landmark, the colonies maintained their sense of history and hospitality.
Driving the Amana Colonies Trail that connects the communities you can feel your tensions easing.  Brick, stone and clapboard homes with the grapevine trellises, well-tended vegetable and flower gardens, street lanterns, magnificent old barns and farm relics let you feel you have rolled the years back to the early 1900’s.  The Amanas have a thriving arts and crafts community with shops offering handmade baskets, candles, brass and copper goods, furniture, clocks, toys, iron, pottery, glass, jewelry, brooms and quilts, along with paintings and fine art work. 
We have been to the Amanas on previous trips as a stop-over between Kansas and points northeast.  The last time through we ran across the Amana Colonies Golf Course and conjured up an excuse to return and play the beautiful, rolling championship quality course.  Staying in the Colony Oaks condominiums overlooking the ninth hole, we treated ourselves to Amana steaks, Maytag Blue Cheese and a lot of California wine.  It doesn’t get a whole lot better!

For more information about the Amanas, go to http://www.amanacolonies.com/.
For the Amana Golf Course, see http://www.amanagolfcourse.com/golf/proto/amanagolfcourse/.