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[graphic header] The Amana Colonies: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary of a unique historic communal society in eastern Iowa

[graphic] Communal Kitchen and Coopershop Museum
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[Photo]
Historic image of Amana women preparing vegetables at the Ruedy Küche, 1926
Photograph courtesy of the Amana Heritage Society

The Ruedy Küche (kitchen house), built in 1863, served up to 40 community members at each meal during the communal era and was one of about nine kitchen houses in Middle Amana. In the communal Amana Colonies no residents had their own kitchens; all community members and the Taglöhners (hired hands) ate at one of the over 50 kitchens operated in the Amana Colonies. At the kitchens, men and women ate separately and with minimal conversation. Each kitchen had a Küchebaas who directed the preparation of three meals and 2 small "snacks." The Küchebaas lived in the adjoining house with her family and also supervised the tending of the gardens, the preservation of fruits and vegetables for the winter, and the sorting of the onion sets for planting in the following year. Many a young woman dreaded sorting the onions because of the exacting standards of the Küchebaas, and yet, work was not all grim. Perkins and Wick, in their 1891 book, History of the Amana Society or Community of True Inspiration, wrote, "When passing their laundries and "kitchens" where the women are working, bursts of innocent laughter mingled with melodious song are to be heard. . ."

[Photos]
Communal Kitchen interior and the Coopershop
Photographs by Shannon Bell

Throughout the communal period the Amana villages had over 50 kitchen houses. In exterior appearances these buildings resembled other residential dwellings, except for an extension to the side. The kitchens were in this wing; the kitchen boss lived in the main part of the house. Several nearby homes were assigned to one kitchen house and all of the families living in the dwellings received their meals from the Community Kitchen. No one prepared individual family meals in the communal Amana Colonies although most families did begin to bring their meals home to eat in the last years of the communal period.

Across the street from the Ruedy Küche, the coopershop sits quietly, belying the activity that once filled it. The coopers in the communal Amana Colonies produced tubs, barrels, and other containers used throughout the community.

The Communal Kitchen and Coopershop Museum is located at 1003 26th Ave., in Middle Amana. Operated by the Amana Heritage Society it is open to the public May 1 to October 31, 9:00am to 5:00pm Monday-Saturday, 12:00pm to 5:00pm Sunday. There is a fee. Call 622-3567 for further information.

 

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