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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] Homestead Dwellings
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Typical Homestead dwellings
Photograph by Shannon Bell
The most common building type found in the Amana Colonies, the dwellings reflect the simple lives of their residents. Several original dwellings, mostly brick, remain in Homestead today. Amana Colony houses were typically rectangular, one-and-a-half-story buildings built with the most plentiful material available at the time of construction. Wood posts and beams, brick, or sandstone were the materials of choice. Hewn oak beams from local forests were utilized. Connections were made using mortise and tenon joints. The carpenters of the Amana Colony used a technique known as nogging to insulate their buildings. This technique consists of stacking unfired bricks, without mortar, between wall studs. Straw was used for insulation between floors and around window openings. The exterior of these buildings demonstrate a distinctive local style, each dwelling was built with a gable roof and nine-over-six windows. The only applied details were panel doors, featuring an locally manufactured metal lock, and a return gable.

The Inspirationist's style of simplicity is carried throughout the interior of the dwellings. The typical floorplan for an Amana Colony dwelling is a central hall with two-room suites on each side. First and second floors were laid out in the same manner. Each dwelling included bedrooms and living spaces, as well as a woodshed, latrine and washhouse that could be attached to the rear of the dwelling or housed in a separate building. The interior walls and ceilings were covered in plaster. Locally milled oak was used in creating deep-set windows and doors. White pine plank flooring covered the floors. On the walls, only religious artwork was allowed. Crafts of the colony, such as calico prints and wool rugs were another source of decoration. Other interior decor consisted of potted plants, embroidered works, crystal and glassware. The individual families owned these items, along with furniture and other household goods.

Side view of Homestead dwelling, with vine covered trellis
Photograph by Shannon Bell

Like many Amana Colony buildings, trellises (simple wooden latticework) were attached to dwellings as vine support for grapes. Trellises usually extended from the ground to the first floor windows and protected the mortar of brick and stone houses from cracking caused by intruding vines and allowed moisture to evaporate from the building surface. Grape varieties included blue Concord, red Catawba, and white Niagara. The village Weinmeister or vineyard overseer was in charge of cultivation. Vines were also planted in yards and in terraced arbors or vineyards. The grapes were later hauled to the village press house to be made into wine.

Each person in the village was assigned a residence, and usually three or four families shared one residence, often related by kinship or marriage. Therefore, it was possible for several generations of one family to live in one dwelling. Single adult women lived with their parents and family, while single men had the option of living in dormitories. Whatever the number of families living in one dwelling, a shared entrance was used. Following the change in 1932, many properties were acquired by individual families and adapted for present-day living. As the Amana Colonies population has increased, new houses have filled in around the original dwellings.

The Homestead Dwellings are located on V Street, Homestead. Most of the dwellings in Homestead pictured here are today private residences and not open to the public. One of the washhouses behind the dwellings is now a shop called Alma's Washhouse, which carries antiques, gifts, and pottery. It is open to the public, 10:00am to 4:00pm Monday-Friday, 9:00am to 5:00pm Saturday, 12:00pm to 4:00pm Sunday.


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