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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] Ox Yoke Inn
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Street view of the Ox Yoke Inn
Photograph by Shannon Bell

Long a landmark in Amana, the Ox Yoke Inn occupies a former communal kitchen house, built in 1856. In 1870, the Society added the brick portion to enlarge the building. The Hertel Küche (kitchen) operated from 1856 until 1932, when Theodore Hertel bought the building from the Amana Society during the Reorganization. When the "Great Change" occurred many members bought the residences in which they were living from the Society as part of the privatization that followed the end of communal life. The "Great Change" began in March of 1931, when the leaders of the Amana Society informed the members of the increasingly bad financial condition of the Amana Society and by vote of the people of the Amana Colonies, the Society reorganized into separate divisions: the Amana Church Society, which looked after the spiritual and charitable affairs of the community; and the secular Amana Society which was organized as an incorporated, capitalistic stock company for pecuniary profit. By 1932 this change was complete. Although accounts vary somewhat, the Great Change of the Amana Society occurred basically as a response to growing secularization, a desire for individualism and personal choice, inefficiency and duplication within the society work force, increased outside visitation due to the popularity of the automobile, and the nationwide economic depression.

[Historic Photo]
Historic photograph of the Ox Yoke Inn, c.1950
Photograph courtesy of the Amana Heritage Society

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. All of the families living in the dwellings received their meals from the Community Kitchen. No one prepared individual family meals in the Amana Colonies although most families did begin to take their meals home to eat in the last years of the communal period.

Visitors have always enjoyed coming to the Amana Colonies for a family style meal, and several families in town opened restaurants in response to the demand. The Leichsenrings opened the Ox Yoke Inn in 1940, in the building just to the west of its present location. They moved shortly after that to the former Hertel Küche and have added on to the building over the years.

The Ox Yoke Inn is located at 4420 220th Trail, in Amana. It serves German family style meals year round, 11:00am to 2:00pm and 5:00pm to 8:00pm Monday-Saturday, and 9:00am to 7:00pm Sunday (brunch 9:00am to 1:00pm). Call 1-800-233-3441 or visit the inn's website for further information.


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