The former church in Homestead is the site of the Church Museum. Here you can learn more about the beliefs of those that made up the Amana Colonies. This was the reason the colonies existed. You can also see the present state of the True Inspiration Church.
There used to be a church in each village. Now only a couple halls are used regularly – Main Amana and Middle Amana. Men and women enter from separate sides and sit separated. Walls are light blue – Amana blue; ceilings are heavenly white. There are simple hard benches and no inner chapel hall adornments. Concentration is to be front and center on the speaker with young people in the front and the older people sitting behind in the back benches of ‘wisdom’. A house is attached to each chapel which was for families that were responsible for the upkeep of the church and grounds.
The Church Museum is an important stop in understanding the spirit that imbued and imbues the Amanas – with both strength and longevity.
A guided tour explains how the dining halls functioned. Unlike in the communal hall of Bishop Hill, Illinois where all 1000 people sat down to dine at the same time, here in Amana, there were several smaller dining halls in each village – about the size of a large family house. This house in Middle Amana is the last intact communal kitchen remaining. The neighboring Cooper Shop shows the tools and techniques involving with barrelmaking.
Employing over 2000 employees, this is the giant of Amana today. The appliances made here have a fine reputation for quality. Originally, Amana was the product of former Colonists, but the company left Colony hands long age and has recently been bought by another Iowan appliance giant, Maytag – itself of Mennonite origins. There are no factory tours, but you might want to position yourself on the hill in Middle Amana above the plant about 3:30 in the afternoon to watch the end-of-workday exodus.
My appliances are from Amana. How about yours? ;-\
Within this former general store you can see how Amana and the outside World interacted. There are several exhibits demonstrating how Amana created goods for sale outside the Colonies and what they needed in return.
In this museum you really start to gain an understanding of what the Amana Colonies were. The museum is located in an old Colony home and is full of exhibits demonstrating history and social life within the communities. On the hour, a short media presentation is given within a Colony school classroom. The re is also a bookstore featuring more information of the Colony and some of the crafts. Cost is $8 but that ticket is good at the other Heritage museums, too - Church, Homestead Store, Communal Kitchen and Cooper Shop, Communal Agricultural. The museums are spread out through the other Amanas.
Between Main Amana and Middle Amana lies what is known as Lily Lake, a shallow lake full of water lilies. Bike paths and hiking paths circle the lake, blending a bit of nature with the Amana blue of the Amana Refrigeration factory in the distance.
Another interesting trail to take giving you a feel for the countryside of the Amanas is the Kolonienweg, a trail running from Main Amana to Middle Amana.
My favorite part of the Amana Colonies is the shopping and my favorite time to go is during the holiday season, before Christmas. But any time is nice.
There are wine and cheese stores where you can sample the goods. The Ackerman Winery in Amana is a favorite. They have all of these fruit flavored wines. My favorite is the blueberry! There are also chocolate stores, quilting stores, candle stores, General Stores, gift stores, and antique stores located throughout the Amana Colonies.
It's worth going to the Visitor Centre first (even though it may be some way from where you have parked if, like us, you park at the first place you see when you arrive in Amana!).
You'll find leaflets and maps and booklets and information, of course, and some rather lovely quilts on display as well. There's a visitor book to sign (your 15 minutes of fame if you are the only 'foreigner' that day!) and very helpful and pleasant staff to advise.
They also offer daily walking tours at some time of year, and also a twice-monthly walking tour of food/drink sampling in the villages.
There are also nice, clean, *free* restrooms (ok, toilets)...a boon and a blessing, as far as I'm concerned!
Mon to Fri 9am to 5pm.
Sun: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
....if only because it's so jam-packed with things to buy that you will probably spend at least a little money there.
And yes, what is on sale does look very nice and much of it does seem to be locally produced.
The building itself was of more interest to me. It dates from 1858, originally sandstone and timber with a brick extension built in 1890.
There are some original wooden fittings inside, which is nice, but the place is so crowded with items that it is difficult to imagine how it once was.
But no doubt you'll visit it anyway, just because it's there.... :-)
Open Monday-Friday 10am-6pm, Saturday 9:30am-8pm and Sunday 10am-5pm.
The Millrace, a six-mile long canal leading from the Iowa River which was cut in the 1860s to power the Amana Mill, has been repaired and restored following the 1993 river floods (which damaged the Millrace's levees). It provides a rather lovely, calm stretch of water to enjoy.
The Konienweg ('colony way') trail runs alongside for just over 3 miles, and would make a very pleasant (and easy..it's paved) walk on a day less hot than when I visited.
I just enjoyed sitting by the quiet water, watching the birds and various water-bugs..and spotting the fish popping up to the surface.
There's a convenient microbrewery/pub right next to the Millrace too: the Millstream Brewing Company. Had I not been driving, I'd definitely have sat in the garden and enjoyed a pint or two of their ale. But, as I was, I just had to be satisfied with the lovely malty smell spreading out over the village....:-)
Despite my slight disappointment at the commercial nature of Amana, there are still visible historical elements to be seen.
So spend some time just walking around the settlement. Many of the buildings date from the mid or late 1800s, and although many on 220th Trail are no commercial premises their exteriors are pretty much as they were when they were first built.
The Visitor Cente, by the way, is a converted 'corn crib'.
(Oh how it pains me to spell 'woolen' with only one 'l' !)
If I'd been by myself i wouldn't have bothered, but my companion (being a weaving addict) insisted. So she explored the mill and I explored the Millrace.
And then I was persuaded to go inside, because my companion wanted me to buy her birthday present. And, actually, it was a pretty good place. They have a wide variety of woven cotton and woollen (ha!) goods on sale, including some lovely blankets and throws, and I thought the prices were very reasonable indeed.
The mill was first established in 1857, although a fire in 1923 destroyed all of it except the weaving shed (and, according to the mill website, helped to bring about the end of the colonies as a communal economy). I'm not entirely sure whether the building which now stands dates from that time or later, but it is a typical mill..long and low, with many windows (good light is essential for weaving) and a tall chimney.
It's still a working mill, and you can see the weaving machines working (although you can't get very close, for obvious reasons).
Of all the commercial places in Amana, I think this one is definitely worth a visit.
The mix of buildings is marvelous. Each has been preserved and they are all in use today. You'll see cut stone buildings, wood frame buildings. Off the main road, there are industrial buildings supporting the farms nearby.
Each building had a purpose in Amana, and although many are converted from the original into a new purpose, many also are part of the National Park Service effort to provide demonstration workshops for visitors to see. Find the list of sites to all the Amana Colonies Here
A wind driven water pump does exist in town, although it's much less impressive than the Danish one of I-80 in western Iowa. It's included in a building known as the Powder House, because it produced a pharmacological product from hog's hoof powder. The complex of multiple addition buildings near it are dedicated to a rambling antique store.