Amish live in over 450 locations across North America. Some are places of great natural beauty. Scenery is something Amish appreciate–so much so that it may even weigh in the decision of where to start a new settlement.
Amish, of course, create their own scenery by their very presence.
Which are the most scenic Amish communities? I’ve only been to about 10% of the total communities in existence. With that in mind, here’s my best shot at choosing seven.
There isn’t any hard science here or deep conclusions to be drawn from this post, just my impressions and why I chose these places. In no particular order:
1. Rexford, Montana— this is the only place on this list I haven’t been to. It’s hard not to include Rexford, though, when you hear what others have said. Grand vistas of the Kootenai National Forest in a tucked-away corner of Big America.
2. Lancaster County, Pennsylvania— The settlement that more outsiders have experienced than any other. Typifies who the Amish are for many. Lancaster has a rich heritage and remarkable historic architecture, along with arguably the most picture-perfect of all Amish farms.
3. Parke County, Indiana— This community of 5 church districts makes the list for another architectural note–its covered bridges. With 31 in the county, Parke County reigns as “Covered Bridge Capital of the World”.
4. Big Valley, Pennsylvania— There’s a reason beyond his exceptional skill that the photos of Bill Coleman capture such attention. The stunning scenery of the Big Valley area and its three diverse Amish groups create a fascinating visual menu.
5. Kalona, Iowa— Why did I put Kalona on the list? Kalona doesn’t seem an obvious choice at first look. It’s scenic enough–rural, with gently rolling hills and sprawling farmsteads, radiating out from around the small town of Kalona, itself home to a historical village. For me Kalona typifies the established midwestern Amish community–it’s small enough that everyone can still just about know (or know of) everyone else, but with a long history and sense of place. Beyond the strictly visual, this choice is more about the feel of a place than any of the others here.
6. Holmes County, Ohio— There are a lot of reasons to include Holmes County— its hilly appeal, charming towns scattered just the right distance apart, and its many Amish groups, showcasing the full range of Amish living, from most traditional to most progressive. My favorite roads to drive lie south of Charm.
7. Lodi, Ohio (Ashland-Medina County)— I wanted to include one Swartzentruber Amish community here. Lodi is the largest Swartzentruber presence in a settlement comprised of only Swartzentruber people. Other large Swartzentruber-only communities can be found at Harmony, Minnesota and Ethridge, Tennessee. To many, Swartzentruber settlements look and feel the most unequivocally “Amish”, with the very low technology, creaky windmills and barns, and for lack of a better term, “rustic charm” of Amish life.
So there’s my seven. What would you add to this list?
Lancaster photo: Leif Harboe/flickr; Kalona children: Iowa Farm Bureau/flickr
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