Amana General Store Built In 1858. One Of The Original Businesses Still In Operation Today In Amana, Iowa.
The Amana Colonies are made up of 7 villages that were established in 1855 on 26,000 acres in mid Iowa. The 7 villages were originally filled with 1200 people. The principle means of support for all the communities was farming. Each village also had a general store, flour mill, craft shops, 2 woolen mills, lumber and brick yards. They were by all means, self sufficient. Indeed everything from soap to stovewood was provided by the community. All meals were prepared at neighborhood communal kitchens. There were 50 communal kitchens in all that fed all 7 villages, 1500 plus residents, 3 meals a day plus 2 coffee breaks.
Walking through the different villages you really get a sense of the community. All the houses are built similar. They housed all family members from sisters and brothers, their families, along with parents and grandparents. All under one roof. The houses are built out of brick and stone, which were all made in Amana. All the houses have trellises on the side and front to grow grape vines.
In 1932, due to economic pressures and the dissatisfaction with the rigid communal system, Amana abandoned the communal way of life, but maintained their community. A new profit sharing joint stock corporation, the Amana Society, was formed. This “Great Change”, as it was known, ended 89 years of communal tradition, but opened doors of opportunity for Amana residents and their children. One of the businesses that was born from the “Great Change” was Amana Appliances, which is now owned by the Whirlpool Corporation. Some things never change though.
Today, the Amana Society farms the land, maintains the largest private forest reserve in the state, and operates a variety of businesses including the Amana Woolen Mill, The General Stores (there are 2), The Furniture and Clock Shop and the Amana Meat Shop and Smokehouse.
I found a lot of this wonderful information in the Willkommen publication. A free guide and newspaper to the seven Amana Colonies. When you stop by to visit, be sure to pick up this publication. I read it cover to cover and it was filled with tons of wonderful history, as well as personal stories of the current residents and their stories handed down to them from their relatives.
Enjoy the pictures. I must say, it’s nice to be in an area that keeps the traditions alive. By that, I mean, there are no modern restaurants, no fast food, no modern buildings. Just Amana, as it was back then, with some improved sidewalks for the modern visitor. Amana has no signal lights. There’s just one main street. Walking it is easy, it’s not to big. Just like back in the day.