The Millwright Hotel along with the Amana Colonies Convention & Visitor’s Bureau hosted my stay last week. My husband Keith and I knew the historic woolen mill was being converted to a hotel. Once this was complete I wanted to see what it was like, and I loved it once I got the chance!
Keith and I travel to Amana on a regular basis. We love the food., the shops and the handcrafted experience that Amana Colonies has to offer.
Amana Colonies a synopsis
Have you been to the Amana Colonies? If not, it is important to understand the significance of the place for the Millwright Hotel to have meaning. The Colonies are seven villages located on 26,000 acres in east-central Iowa. The towns that make up the colonies are Amana, East Amana, High Amana, Middle Amana, South Amana, West Amana, and Homestead. The German Pietists were a religious group. Seeking freedom from persecution, they came to the States. They first settled in New York, then moved to Iowa in 1856. The Colonists lived a communal life until 1932. The Millwright Hotel is one of the buildings used by the Colonist to make wool.
History of the Hotel
Elise Heitmann, the Executive Director of the Amana Colonies Convention & Visitor’s Bureau was born and raised in the Colonies. She said about the hotel, “I love it, I think they did a great job. I’ve got a lot of compliments.”
Elise said that the hotel overall seems to be liked by both locals and tourists alike. “The Amana Society owns the Complex, and they brought in IDM Hotel Management Company that does Boutique Hotels.”
The woolen mill is still in operation on a smaller scale. Visitors can receive tours of the hotel and peek into the mill if hotel staff have time for tours. Hotel staff and the Amana Colonies Heritage Museum worked with the museum to secure picture. These pictures ensure that the story of the mill is told!
History of the Woolen Mill
In the beginning according to Amana history they once had two woolen mills. “One in Amana and the other in Middle Amana. These mills were a vital part of the financial success of the Amana Colonies and had their roots as far back as Germany. Back in the 1800s when our ancestors were still in Germany 4 members of the community formed a woolen mill at Armenburg, near Frankfurt, Germany. The mill was formed in part to provide jobs for the inspirationist who had moved into the area after leaving their home due to religious persecution. The Armenburg mill and another built at nearby Herrnhaag would play a crucial role in financing the move of the community to America.”
The equipment form Armenburg was shipped in 1844 to New York. They were later reassembled in the buildings built in the Colonies. The power for the mill was from the Mill Race. This a hand dug canal that provided hydropower to operate the mill. The Mill Race runs from the Iowa River near West Amana through the center of the Colonies. The race is, approximately 7 mile long!
The Mill is a National Site
A National Park Site, the mill is historic. On their website they add, “Construction of the Woolen Mill in Amana began in 1859, and the complex was continually expanded until 1943. A salesroom was later added in the 1960s. It was one of two mills in the Colonies…The Amana Woolen Mill was originally water-powered, generated from the seven-mile Mill Race. Eventually this source was replaced by steam, and then by electricity, including water powered generators.”
By 1890 the woolen mills produced 3,000 yards of woolen goods daily! While the Colony had over 3,000 sheep, they still had to import wool as well.
The 2nd mill built in Middle Amana closed in 1936. The buildings became the home of the Amana Refrigeration.
Our Room the Millwright Hotel
Our room was amazing! We had a King Suite Room 104. It was called the Bellwether named after a small type of sheep. The room had a huge bed, clean lines, a kitchen area and a HUGE bathroom. The bathroom had a nice big tub a big plus for me! The mattress was so comfortable. Best were great the factory pictures, and the beams on the ceiling!
The Millwright Hotel Tour
Shelby Foster, the events coordinator took me on a tour while Keith went antique shopping. “This campus was a working woolen mill process from the very beginning,” she explained. “This building became part of the electric company based on the Mill Race. The electric ran a lot of electricity, the woolen mill, and the flour mill across the stream.”
She explained that there is a lot of confusion between the colonists and the Amish. However, Shelby said, “The Colonists were not afraid of electricity.”
Fire however did wreck havoc in 1923 when the flour mill caught fire. The fire jumped the Mill Race and the woolen mill also caught fire. They were able to save most of the woolen mill, however, that is not true of the flour mill.
There are two bars in the hotel. There is the Indigo Bar, which is attached to the Indigo Room. The other, the Electric Thread is in a separate building. The Indigo Bar and dining room names are based on the dye used for many of the Amana cloths and for a Calico Mill. There is a story that the indigo they used came from Germany. It was World I and they were receiving a shipment from a German U-boat that was caught off the East Coast of the United States.
The Electric Thread is in the Electric Company Offices. This cool space is near the chimney and the bar has tools below a clear glaze. There is live music here often and it has a fun vibe. There is a separate dining area for dinner! We ate breakfast at the Indigo Room and I was impressed by the selection and food quality. This area was the former boiler room!
Millwright Hotel Details
The main building of the Hotel Millwright houses 65 guest rooms and three suites. There also are two studios in a freestanding building. and a gift shop as well. The hotel has several soft seating areas and they have areas with weaving machines. “These sewing and weaving machines were left as part of storage and the antiques work to tell part of the story of what was happening here too,” Shelby said.
They also used pieces that were not functional and made them into functional pieces. “These were all made by Amana Furniture,” Shelby added.
Some rooms are ADA and there are three elevators onsite. “All rooms come with a microwave, minifridge and kureig. All bathrooms also have a selfie mirror and extra lighting behind it. The pictures in the rooms depend on what was happening here, they tell the story of the rooms.”
Because this is a historic property, every room is different! Four to six rooms have tubs, we were lucky to have one of them! At Christmas they decorate with trees in the lobby and beyond!
Event Space & The Working Mill
The hotel is used for events. While we were there an event was going on so I could not see the large Merino Loft which holds 200 people. Below the loft is the working mill. While I could not go in, I was able to peek in and see it in operation!
I viewed on smaller event space, the Cording Studio, which was lovely.
The Millwright Hotel is a wonderful place, book your stay soon!