Iowa's Amana Colonies are a popular destination located just west of Cedar Rapids and a hair north of Interstate 80. They're known for family-style meals, beers, and their trademark woolen products. Did you know that top-of-the-line heirloom furniture is crafted here, too? I uncovered the nostalgic Amana Furniture & Clock Shop on a recent visit to this former German settlement. Let's look at the history of the colonies to understand the furniture's roots.
The original settlers of the Amana Colonies fled Germany in the 1800s' to seek refuge from religious persecution in Europe. They found a home in Iowa, where the gently rolling landscape reminded them of their homeland and spread out between seven villages, each a little different than the next.
They established a communal environment where women worked together daily to provide the meals and snacks for the community. The men were farmers, artisans and business owners that provided many living essentials. They took pride in the craftsmanship of their goods; their woolen mill, meat market, general store and furniture shops became booming businesses, and are all still in operation today. Residents of the Amana Colonies disbanded the communal society in the 1930s, but the legacy and spirit of the culture remain.
I explored the furniture shop in-depth and noted the quality craftsmanship and timeless designs. I ran my hand over many furniture pieces and was in awe at the smooth-as-silk wood finish.
The shop uses a variety of oak, cherry, and solid walnut woods for their designs but will occasionally use specialty woods to achieve a particular look. What makes the furniture even more impressive is the quality of construction. One carpenter works exclusively on each piece to achieve a consistent look. This approach differs from most other furniture companies that use a manufacturing line to assemble their pieces. The skilled builders use old-fashioned design techniques but have state-of-the-art equipment. As a finishing touch, a group of women apply stain and polish by hand.
Visitors to the furniture gallery can see the variety of premium pieces like dining room tables, rocking chairs, bedroom sets and handmade grandfather clocks. Amana furniture often becomes a family heirloom that’s passed down throughout the generations. If you don’t see something that catches your eye in the showroom, visitors can order custom works. A viewing balcony located just off the showroom floor offers the chance to watch the carpenters work.
The Amana Colonies have much to offer travelers: Great food, quality goods, and a new appreciation for the colonies’ rich history, take visitors back in time. Make it a point to visit with the shop owners, many of whom are descents of original settlers.