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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] West Amana Barns
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Amana barns are often gray in color, like this group in West Amana, which were left to weather naturally
Photograph by Shannon Bell

Amana Colony barns show strong German and American influence. A number of the barns were built as banked barns, built into a gentle slope with a one-story stone foundation and were thus able to take advantage of the rolling topography of the Amana Colonies. A functional forebay offering the protection of one wall and a roof was also a popular feature of many Inspirationist barns. Built of wood and left unpainted, barns, like frame houses, weathered naturally into a light gray color. Rusting iron nails added brown and red streaks to the color of barns. Wooden louvered ventilators appear to have been used for most of the communal period. Like most Amana Colony buildings, barns usually employed a gable roof. Large barns had lean-to's and other small structures added to them, giving them a variety of shapes, forms, and massing. A number of barns were essential in each village. A typical village needed an Ochsentall (ox barn), Gaustall (horse barn), Füllerstall (colt barn), Kuhstall (cow barn), and a Saustall (hog barn). Machine sheds, corn cribs, buggy sheds, granaries, and other farm buildings usually completed the complex. East Amana, for example, noted for its sheep, had two sheep barns in its complex. Occasionally a scalloped apron under a porch eave, a weather vane on a roof, or wooden ventilators broke the severe structural lines of the simple barns. The agricultural buildings grouped together at one edge of the village were dominant visual characteristics of the Amana villages and stood in sharp contrast to the typical family farm which characterized the rest of Iowa during the Amana Colonies' communal area.

Built as banked barns into a slope, the West Amana barns display their German-American influences
Photograph by Shannon Bell

The landscape was as important in defining the physical character of the Amana Colonies as the distinctive and simple building style. The dominant character of the landscape has always been agriculture. Dependent on agriculture for their existence, the Amana Colony Inspirationists chose their Iowa site for its fertile soil as well as its sources of water and building supplies. The seven Amana villages were organized as agricultural villages. Indeed, Article III of the Amana Society, written soon after they arrived in Iowa, stated "Agriculture and the raising of cattle and other domestic animals, in connection with some manufacturing and trades, shall under the blessing of God form the means of sustenance for this Society."

The West Amana Barns are located at 7th Avenue & F15 Blvd., in West Amana. Still used as farm buildings, these barns are not open to the public.


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