Stepping Back in Time in the Amana Colonies

 In Amana Colonies, Research Trips

In August I spent a week touring the remarkable Amana Colonies in Iowa to research my new historical novel (Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa). There are seven quaint villages in the Amanas with 19th-century homes and shops built from brick, wood, and sandstone and surrounded by colorful gardens and trees. I felt as if I’d traveled back a hundred years or so as I visited the bakery (where they still bake on the open hearth), the rustic church buildings, the butcher shop, the mill, and the former Amana kitchens that now serve schnitzel, sauerkraut, spaetzle, and sweet rhubarb and dandelion wine.

A glassy canal cuts through the rolling farmland owned by the Amanas, and when I biked along it one afternoon, I discovered the beautiful Lily Lake with hundreds of yellow blooms canvassing the water. The Iowa River also traverses through the Colonies along with a train that woke me up at 4 a.m. every morning as it whistled and chugged its way through town.

I stayed at the Die Heimat Inn in Homestead which was built in the 1850s and used for 30 years as a communal kitchen. The Amana Colonies operated as a commune for 80 years (ending in 1932), and as part of their communal living, they ate together in community kitchens, attended church and prayer meetings together eleven times a week, and worked together either in town or in the farmlands that surrounded each of the seven villages.

No one received a paycheck in Amana. Each person worked hard at an assigned job, and then everything was provided for them–food, clothing, their home, medical care, furniture, and even the sky blue paint that added color to the rooms inside every building in the Amanas. The Amana people didn’t worry about food or any of their physical needs so they devoted their time to reading, prayer, making beautiful crafts, and helping the many transients who stopped by the Colonies for a bite to eat.

During the Great Depression, the Amana Colonies separated their church community from their business corporation. The Amanas still worked together, but they began receiving pay for their work and learned quickly how to provide for themselves. While I was visiting the Colonies, I met a number of wonderful people whose parents were part of what they refer to as the “Great Change,” and I was blessed to spend time with one 92-year-old man who grew up in Amana while it was a commune.

Even though the Amana Colonies no longer operate as a commune, there is still a strong sense of community and faith in this community. Residents value their friendships and the foundations of the Amana Church just like their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents did.

As I begin this next novel, I’m excited to encapsulate the strength and beauty and the community of the Amanas through a story about a heartbroken man and his young daughter who are trying to find their way home.

Here are some pictures from my trip:

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Showing 6 comments
  • Mary Ann

    Beautiful pics. I would love to move into the Leather House. I am very jealous of the flowers around the water pump. Can’t wait to get the book.

  • Anonymous

    I felt like I was on the ‘adventure’ with you through those great pictures!! Book club can’t wait for your new books;we are praying for you and your family too! :)Lynda

  • Anonymous

    The book is wonderful!! I felt like I was right their in Homestead with Liesel and Jacob. I really enjoyed these pictures. Everything is so beautiful!

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for writing a fictional book about the Amana Colonies. It brought back memories of when my mother was born and raised there, as well as when I visited my oma and opa in Homestead. It is a beautiful place to visit. Miss going there.


  • Anonymous

    I was born and raised in the Amana Colonies and I love the Amana community so much. I just discovered this book and can’t wait to read it!

  • Tina Babcock

    I just finished your book Find love in Amana, and was was touched in my heart. I don’t usually these read books of this type but I am so glad that I did. Makes me wish that we lived in a simpler time where a family could be in a commuinty where with hard work and dedication all of our needs could be met, and live without need of outside influences. Thank you for writing it, and I look forward to reading your book about Mackinaw Island as I am from MI, and have visited the Island on a number of occassions.


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