Amana Colony – The Community of True Inspiration

The most widely known business that emerged from the Amana Society is Amana Refrigeration, Inc. This national leader in the production of refrigerators was founded by an Amana native, George C. Foerstner at the time of the Great Change. The first beverage cooler, designed for a businessman in nearby Iowa City in 1934, was built by skilled craftsmen at the Middle Amana woolen mill. In the decades that followed, the mill became the site of this large, now private, plant producing refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, and in 1967 introduced a new product — the Amana Radarange Microwave Oven. Today, the 19th-century woolen mill smoke stack still rises over the modern plant.

Middle Amana Whirlpool Plant

Middle Amana Whirlpool Plant

The Amana Church continues to be a vital part of the Amana community. These churches are much as they were when built more than 125 years ago. The building exteriors are unpretentious with no steeples or stained-glass windows.

The interiors continue to feature the unfinished wood floors, plain pine benches and unadorned walls that have long echoed the tradition of humility and piety. Men still enter and sit on one side of a central aisle; women on the other.

English language services were introduced in 1960, but, in both German and English services, the order of worship has changed little over the years, which include a reading from Scripture; a reading from a testimony from Rock, Metz or Landmann; and hymns that would be recognized by a congregation of a century earlier.
Today, heritage tourism has become important to the economy of the Amana area. Historic preservation efforts by several local nonprofit organizations, as well as the Amana Society, Inc. in conjunction with land-use and historic preservation ordinances attempt to preserve the natural and built environment of Amana.

Visitors can stroll through Amana, the largest of the seven villages, and visit the Amana Woolen Mill and Amana Furniture Shop, which was originally a calico mill. 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.

Middle Amana, Iowa Church

Middle Amana, Iowa Church

Each village contained numerous dwellings, such as those in Homestead. 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 are Hahn’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 and West 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.


Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated April, 2017.

Source: National Park Service

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