Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Amana Colonies

(Amana, IL) Hi  85   Lo  56  -- Many of our RV'ing friends have told us about the Amana Colonies, and we were looking forward to exploring them today.

There are seven Amana colonies, all clustered within a 17-mile driving loop about 15 miles northwest of Iowa City. Their roots were established by a religious movement known as the "Community of True Inspiration" which was founded in the early 1700's in Germany by Lutheran clergymen and their followers. After breaking away from the Church, these individuals faced unyielding persecution which forced them to emigrate in 1842 to Ebenezer, NY.

Wishing to establish a permanent home, the leaders moved west to the fertile lands of Iowa, where they established the Amana Community of True Inspiration in 1855. The early Amana was a pure communal system motivated by deep religious convictions. They established themselves as a completely self-sufficient society, requiring little contact with the "outside world." Their system survived for over 80 years before economic and social changes forced the leaders to develop a new plan for society members, which permitted private ownership of property. That was basically the end of the Amana communal way of life.

We drove the 17-mile "Amana Colonies Trail." The seven colonies include Amana, South Amana, West Amana, North Amana, Middle Amana, High Amana, and Little Amana. Amana is the largest and has the most to see, so we saved it for the end of our tour. It's unfortunate that most of what you see in the Amanas is related to selling things rather than teaching about the Amana way of life. There are few museums, and they're very small and very specialized. And one of them that we wanted to see, which was about agriculture, wasn't even open. So we basically saw a lot of "general stores," antique shops, gift shops, fudge and candy shops, and restaurants. But the overall look and feel of the buildings and streets was very unique and beautiful.

Our first stop was Al’s Copper Garden. They design and produce handmade yard and other ornaments out of copper. They bring in copper sheets and cut out the pattern, mold it, then paint it with auto paint, which makes it last in any weather condition.
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Within all these flowers is a praying matis. It’s huge
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They have a small observation room where you can watch the eight artists through the window.
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Their work was beautiful, and if we lived in a sticks and bricks home I'd have probably bought something for the yard.

Our next stop was the Mini-Americana Barn Museum. Henry Moore had a boyhood dream to build the history of the world in small scale models. Most of his work was replicas of farm life during the 1800's and early 1900's, scaled to one inch per foot.

We were greeted by Henry Moore’s son.
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There were over 200 building structures. Here are a few.
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Coming out of the barn museum we saw a couple model A Fords. They’re part of a Model A club that's traveling across the country.
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This one has an air conditioner installed under the dash. The wife said she wouldn’t go with him without air conditioning. :)
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One of the places, the Broom and Basket Shop, advertised the "World's Biggest Rocking Chair." Well, we just had to see that!
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You could buy hand-made brooms and baskets here.
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It was now time for some lunch. Most of the local restaurants serve German food, and it would have been hard to pick one. However, Henry Moore’s son at the barn museum gave us a discount card for the Ronnenburg Restaurant, so that's where we decided to go.
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Jim got the Builder's Sandwich, which was an open-faced sandwich piled high with roast beef and gravy, with skillet-fried potatoes in the middle. I had the turkey reuben. They were great, and we left stuffed!
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Custom Cutlery and Ironworks makes kitchen and hunting knives. Jim's a knife buff so we stopped in. They use some very old machinery to make the knives.
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Many of the doors in town had this kind of opener. Can you call this OLD?  I think it’s very unique
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Our last stop was the Amana Meat Market and Smokehouse, where we picked up some meats and cheese. When we registered at the park yesterday we were given a "wooden nickel" good for a pound of brats for $1.
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During our travels today we even found a geocache. There’s several geocaches around the area. We now can mark Iowa off our list of states we've found caches.

Overall we enjoyed our tour of the Amana Colonies. If you're looking to learn a lot of history you might be disappointed. But for a leisurely way to spend an afternoon of unique shopping and eating, it was a lot of fun.

Our evening was capped off by a quick visit from Denny and Char, who we met a few years ago at an RV-Dreams Rally. They were in the area so they stopped in for a quick catch-up chat. Thanks for stopping in guys.
Tomorrow we're off to Offutt AFB, Nebraska, just outside Omaha. A new state for Tumbleweed!


Jim and Sandie said...

I would have been looking for the history also. But you did an excellent job on your tour through the area. Loved the big rocking chair.

Jill said...

I think we saw the sister of the world's biggest rocking chair two days ago outside of Berlin, Ohio. It was (I think) the world's biggest adirondack chair. HUGE. Made me laugh!

Sandra said...

Looks like an interesting place. Love that frog!

GGuncle said...

Tell jim the kabar knive that is issued to all marines is made here in Olean, ny. about 1-1/2 hours southeast of where we live. we finially got home from our trip to alaska, all i can say is WOW!!!

Mike and Terri said...

What a great day of exploring. That Builders Sandwich looks real good. You two looked real cute in the rocker. Visiting with fellow Dreamers Denny and Char was a nice surprise too. Travel safely tomorrow!!!

Nancy and Bill said...

Nice tour and love the rocker photos;o)) Glad you got to meet up with Denny and Char!!!

KarenInTheWoods and Steveio said...

Cute chair!

I think that mini-barn museum would be very interesting. What great folk art!

Karen and Steve
(Our Blog) RVing: Small House... BIG Backyard

Carol and Kevin said...

The copper flowers are very pretty... I'd find one small enough to put in a vase on the table. Nice to have flowers around all year, even in a small space! Enjoy Nebraska.