Thursday, June 8, 2017

Brick Walls with Stories

The architecture of Amana is quite unique as you look at the brick,
sandstone walls, foundations, chimneys and rabbats. Early masters of the methods and materials used in Amana looked to local resources especially in these rural areas. The quality and texture of the clay, sands, limestone and fires in the kilns all factored in for a better construction. The look, feel and location of a good clay made a difference in the bricks. Shrinkage and closeness to the heat determined the size of the bricks. Size and weight of bricks were important in construction of exterior and interior walls and chimneys. Often soft bricks were used on interior walls. Color was also an important factor in design to keep architecture color consistent in the Amanas. Before 1760, American  brickmakers tended to use  salmon colored bricks for interiors. The exterior walls were a darker, harder brick and held up well to the elements. Other great characteristics of the brick were the finger or animal paw prints, straw marks, and brick layering marks left behind while bricks were drying in the open drying beds. The mortar, the glue that held the bricks together, was also carefully thought out. Mortar production also occurred near its construction site. Great skill and knowledge of mortar materials and recipes was required for the process of the brick laying. A modified Three-to-One bond pattern method was often used in Amana. Three-six rows the side if the brick, one row of the front of the brick shows, and pattern repeats. Mortar had to be laid evenly to compensate for the irregularly of handmade bricks in order for these buildings to withstand time. These Amana structures are a lasting legacy to the artistry of our early brickmakers.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Spent Grain Bread

In old Amana communal days very little was wasted. A use was found for almost every kind of scrap. That tradition carries over today in a local, oldest in Iowa, brewery where they make bread from grain leftover from making beer, called spent grain.  Spent grains have nutrients and flavors after their sugars have coverted to beer.  The grain is added to regular dough to add protien and texture. It makes  a hearty, somewhat sweet, healthy loaf of bread.  In Germany, Monks used to work with fermented grains for certain types of religeous atonement.  Their bread was called Biertreberbrot.  A wonderful, creative,  local bread you must try!

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Archives

A stately building, the Archives sits by itself, against a beautiful sky, holding special words of its founders. These words were to be read and spread as the word of God.  The original founders of the Community of True Inspiration were quite prolific printers, even bringing printing presses and books with them from Germany, across the Atlantic to Enenezer, N.Y. and finally Amana. They printed their own books used for worship and religious study as they contained thoughts and ideas of early church leaders. Also, childrens books, ledgers, Sunday School books, and business operation documents were  printed. Many of these artifacts survived the orginal journey or were donated and stored in the church archives as some  pre date 1714, the founding date of the Community of True Inspiration. Many are printed with the old German script so had to be transcribed and translated. Lots of these papers coordinate with and inspired the historical and digital archives, with its at least eight different geneology research subjects, at the Amana Heritage Museum today.

The Radarange

The Radarange (RR1) was first released in 1967 by Amana Refrigeration, a division of Raytheon then, owned by Whirlpool now. In 1947 Raytheon Co. came up with the name of this new microwave oven  "Radarange"
through an employee contest.  The concept of quick microowave cooking had arrived! It set the bar for the competition for years to come. It was very stylish with lots of chrome, class, and workmanship.  It was the first popular home microwave oven even though sales at first were slow due to size, weight, and cost but by 1967 iit was smaller, safer and more reliable than some on market. By 1971 prices lowered due to competition.  Dr. Perry Spencer, a self-taught engineer with the Raytheon Corporation, discovered the microwave by accident while testing magnetron tubes and eventually invented this revolutionary, multimillion dollar industry of microwave ovens. At one time they outsold gas ranges with about 90% of homes having a microwave of some brand. The vintage Radarange was very popular in Amana and around the world with the production plant being in Middle Amana. The newer, electronic models are still valued  today for quick cooking and reheating.



Stone Quarries

Many of the old stone and brick buildings in The Amana Colonies were built to last  for years and years. The good materials, many of which came from the local area and Iowa City, lended homes made for strength and durability. The  builders were proud that the brick, stone, and wood were formed, quarried or cut in the Amana area. The sandstone quarry was only a half block from where the church stands today. It was located  along Price Creek near the Meat Shop. It yielded  a very hard stone.
The  West Amana quarry was about a quarter mile west of town. High Amana's quarry was located a quarter mile east of High while Middle Amana had a quarry on the  north side near the creek. There were two brickyards in South Amana  due to the good quality of its clay. The great architecture today showcases these sturdy stones and bricks of past local quarries.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Kinderschule

The Kinderschule was a special place for children ages 3-5,  a preschool tended to by the older ladies of communal Amana so the younger women could work in the community  kitchens and gardens. The Kinderschule  care providers were often known to the children because of the closeness of the community. Some were like extended family members to the children. The working mothers would visit at noon and pick children up after work.  In this one room day care, separate from the regular schools, teachers focused on the German language, games, songs, and rhymes, not book learning. Here the children played in fenced schoolyards and enjoyed snacks as bread and butter with molasses, coffee with milk and lots of love.  All the children felt a sense of belonging to the community at an early age as they were seen as important citizens and could learn to fill a real need when more hands were needed. This Kinderschule still stands and is located east of the Middle Amana Church.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Waterworks Building...

The Homestead Waterworks building has been restored and sits facing east on the east end of Homestead behind the post office building. This houses a water well.  The Amana Society had a well about 223 feet deep there drilled by J.P. Miller and Co. of Chicago. Usually, water was diverted from the Iowa River and led through a handmade  canal. That water was used in factory boilers and also supplied small gravity systems of waterworks as this one in Homestead.  This water  was  softer than ground water, used generally for washing clothes. The water from the shallower wells was used for drinking and baking. In Amana, similar water was used to scour only the wool at the Woolen Mill. That well was dug entirely with skill and labor of Amana Society workers.

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Bratwurst

The bratwurst is a favorite meat in Germany and the Amana Colonies. It is a type of sausage made from either veal or pork, or beef, or a combination. Some are mixed with herbs and spices. The name  comes from the German Brät which is connected with the meat that makes up the sausage.  So, the word "Bratwurst" refers to a type of sausage which is made from pork encased in a natural casing. It is grilled or fried in a pan, then eaten on a hard roll with German mustard as a sandwich or can be eaten as an entree with kraut and potatoes. Some add sauerkraut to the sandwich. In Germany it is ordered "grab" or " fein". Other popular German wursts from the hundreds of shops and types are Weisswurst, Currywurst, and Mettwurst.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Wire Corn Crib

The corncrib, called such because of the open sides of the structure that allow the whole husk corn to continue to dry while in storage. This created good ventilation from side to side. Corn on the ear could be dried  earlier and kept longer than shelled corn.  The corn crib was an architectural masterpiece made from wood slats and wire mesh, with cement elevated floors to keep out rodents. Corncribs were used well into the 1950's. Advances in storage, combines, picking methods, and technoligy have slowly brought these  stately outbuildings to their demise. Those that remain now stand weathered and remind us of a bygone era of shelling by hand and feeding hogs. Most corn today is shelled from the cob by machine during the harvest and then stored in grain bins. The larger corncribs, as this rectangular Amana one, has a large center space used to store wagons in the past.

Hospital Barn in Amana

The barn, built before 1900, stands on the eastern end of Amana in the Visitors Center complex facing the wire corn crib. The stately barn is constructed of sandstone and wood.  Here, the Amana farmers used to tend calves that were in need of extra care. They stayed in sheltered stalls beneath the hayloft where they were cared for daily. To the east of the barn grounds is Price Creek, creating a most beautiful setting for the complex.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Grain Sacks

Grain sacks are some of the most beautiful relics of old Ebenezer, the first Amana village of the Amana Colonies in New York, that I have ever seen.They are very limited in numbers, handmade at home or by a grain sack maker in the 1800's from organic hemp linen, a very durable fabric that is still solid today. The grain sacks were used by the local farmers, merchants for restaurants and hotels, and soldiers to carry grains to the local mills. After the grain was ground the sack was refilled with flour and  returned to owners. The elaborate calligraphy on the sacks were hand, block-stamped with a tar-based stencil ink bearing the first and last names of the owner, his title, the year, inventory number, and town where they worked and lived. The marks, mends, durability, dirt, the uneven wear, the softness with age, and stencils of these bags added to their appeal. If you appreciate the nuances of handwoven and hand stitched antique textiles, then these are pieces to collect. The Europeans viewed their grain sacks as family status symbols that were passed down from generation to generation and now found in estate sales, dowry chests, or floorboards of old farmhouses. The German immigrants to Amana brought with them a most unique textile!