Saturday, January 2, 2016


A couple of interesting religion-based places to visit that are within driving distance of Des Moines, the capital of Iowa, are the Amana Colonies and Graceland University. 

The Amana Colonies are 100 miles directly east of Des Moines. They were founded by a Christian sect known as the Community of True Inspiration (also known as "Pietists" or "Inspirationists") in 1855. The sect originated in Germany in 1714 and focused on simple worship based on Bible study. Like so many other groups of that time, religious persecution drove them to settle in America. They had established a system of communal living in 1846 in their settlement near Buffalo, New York, but wanted to escape the worldliness of New York, so they bought 26,000 acres in Iowa. They named the area "Amana," a term from the Song of Solomon that means "remain true." The group established seven villages or colonies, each with a church, school, bakery, and blacksmith shop. Fabric factories made money for the colonies. The communal system ended in 1932 when the communities voted to form a corporation. A few years later they developed Amana refrigeration, their most widely known business enterprise. We've owned one of their fridges. Hasn't everyone?

Today the colonies are a popular tourist destination. We spent some time walking around the main village, known simply as Amana (the others are East Amana, High Amana, Middle Amana, South Amana, West Amana, and Homestead), and I enjoyed the old architecture, but I was disappointed that we didn't find more unique local crafts.

I like this unusual brick pattern that we saw on several buildings:

While local crafts seemed scarce, we did find some local chocolate:


A typical farming complex

Eighty miles directly south of Des Moines is the little town of Lamoni, population 2,300, which happens to be in Amish country. 
The Amish have a breed of cattle I've never seen before:

Lamoni was settled by the Community of Christ church in 1870 and was the headquarters of that church (then known as the Reorganized Latter Day Saints, or RLDS) from 1880 to 1920 before they moved to Independence, Missouri. 
In 1895 the church established Graceland College (not to be confused with Elvis's home in Memphis). In 1917 Graceland became the first accredited junior college in Iowa, and it became a four-year college in 1960 and a university in 2000. It has been ranked as a "first tier" school by U.S. News & World Report and as a top Midwest school by the Princeton Review.
We drove around the campus and were impressed. The university has 35 undergraduate majors and 19 varsity sports.
We wondered if the Bruce Jenner Sports Complex is going to be renamed the Caitlyn Jenner Sports Complex.
A residential campus, Graceland has about 2,300 students and 150 faculty.

The Administration Building

We came across this elderly gentleman doing some plein air painting:

His work was monochromatic. Maybe he is color blind?

Claude Monet? Nope, definitely not color blind! 

Although it was a weekday, we saw very few people actually walking around campus. It must have been the summer break. I would have loved a little more time to stroll through the bookstore or peek into a classroom. 


  1. Interesting! I had heard of the first two groups, including the connection to Amana appliances, but didn't now about Community of Christ's University.

  2. Amana was a big disappointment. Very little seemed tied to the past. Not much to distinguish it from other similar type places we've visited. Lamoni was fun because it is still so small and apparently dominated by the Community of Christ.