What are Amish “shop houses”?

Visiting Amish communities you might notice people living in a building meant for something else. Tom shares a little today about these “shop houses” along with a few photos from Angelica, NY:

Amish Shop House

Says Tom: “In Conewango and other conservative settlements I visit young married Amish couples often build a shop house. This a very simple house that they can live in until they are able to build a larger house. Then they will use the shop house for a shop. Also in this area doors are painted “Amish blue”, some times gray is the color of choice.”

Shop House NY Amish
“This shop house and the next one were built by a friend of mine for his two married daughters and sons in law. I have been in this one and it is very nice. As I remember my friend said there is less than $10,000 in materials in this building. After watching HG TV I would guess few English young people today would be interested in a house without granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances in their kitchens, but Amish folks seem to do quite well without.”

Angelica New York Amish

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    1. Valerie

      Thank you Tom

      This is very interesting, I wasn’t familiar with these shop houses. Sure is humbling to learn how the Amish are content with so little and as you point out, shows like HGTV is another example of trying to keep up with the Jones to be content in life-the latest updating of homes which does not satisfy the soul.Another way as Believers we are suppose to not conform to the world’s patterns for satisfaction-what a battle that can be! It is another example of why they live the community life and take scriptures at face value and apply them, ie: I Timothy 6:6-8: Now godliness with contentment is great gain.. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.

      Can I say that and MEAN it? Challenge!

      Erik, have you seen these shop houses in Holmes County OH? I don’t believe I have seen them. And does anyone know the meaning of the blue doors? I don’t remember seeing them in Holmes either, or other OH Amish areas but I did in the Wilmington PA area.

      Imagine, if we could be happy and content with a home built for $10,000!

      1. Hi Valerie, have been offline the past few days (beach trip!) so just getting to comments. Nothing specific is coming to mind right now, but I’d be surprised if some Amish in Holmes didn’t put up shop houses, but I think you do see them in some places more than in others. I know I’ve seen (and been in quite a few of) them in Illinois, Indiana, Virginia…it’s a low-cost way to get your household started. And you’ll probably see more of this in settlements that are less well-off financially.

    2. Roberta Klooster

      I think this is a wonderful idea. More “English” should be satisfied to begin simply. We certainly did back in the 1960’s, but I think the way the Amish get started is so much more encouraging – with the support of their families. We had their support, but when we moved 200 miles away for my husband’s job with the government we had to make it on our own. For me the hardest part was no friends or older people to talk with. I knew nothing!

    3. LeeAnn

      I have seen a couple of houses simular like this that were on t.v. People built the houses to save money and used old lumbar. I think it would be a great way to help people have homes.

      Those just starting out, older people and single people would have a way to own a home of their own. Even habitat for humanity builds homes that cost more than this. Wouldn’t mind seeig the inside of one of these homes, if you have the photos of it.

      Thanks for sharing.

      1. Tom

        I wish I could share an interior picture, but would not ask, this would be out of line with these conservative folks. The house is well insulated with dry wall painted white. The floors are plywood painted grey. There is one big room with a kitchen and dinning table at one end. The couples bed room on the first floor with room for a crib, Under the stairs to the upper level is a pantry were canned goods are stored because there is no basement. Up stairs (I have never seen this area) was unfinished when they moved in. They have perhaps two to three children now and most likely have finished bed room areas up stairs. The house is very plain. but I find it interesting how an Amish women give the house her own touch with picture calendars, painted glass ware and hand made shelves. This group do not have built in kitchens. But kitchen furniture, a dry sink, sink with running cold water or perhaps not, hoosier cabinet, work counter on casters, wood shove and a kerosine one or two burner shove. I hope this helps you picture the interior.

      2. Carolyn B

        Thanks, LeeAnn

        Thanks, Lee Ann, for asking to see interiors. I was going to ask too. I love seeing floor plans, etc. I would love to have a $10,000 home but I bet it would be much more than that to add the electric, gas, and water that I’d have to have as a spoiled Englisher.

        Thanks, Erik & Tom, for this post. Tom, you always have such good shots.

    4. Linda

      It’s a good starter house that can be used for a different purpose later on. Most newlyweds can’t afford to start where the parents left off.

    5. Matt from CT

      Reminds me of two (sometimes intersecting) traditions here in New England.

      First is the “Big House, Little House, Back House, Barn” form of connected buildings. Little house would come first — including the kitchen, and as the family / farm wealth grew, it would become an ell off a newer “Big House” that had the parlor, sitting room, and more bedrooms.

      In the 19th century it became popular especially in New Hampshire and Maine, though there are a few in my area, to move a workshop over to connect it as the “back house” where you’d store stuff that could freeze, or split wood, or sharpen blades, and carry out home-industries like basket making, and then move the barn to connect it as well. It wasn’t a weather thing, it was considered efficient so the progressive Yankee could have all their chores and tasks organized as they walked from bedroom to barn.

      As for the little houses themselves, you might start with a simple “half cape” with a kitchen downstairs and a single bedroom above — everything to the left (or right) of the front door. Later on you would add portion to the right (or left) of the front door. A typical cape has two windows on either side of the door — if you were really scraping by, you might even start with a “quarter cape” (door and one window) and add on by quarters, each added front window considered another quarter.

      Sometimes a single floor house would be lifted to become the second floor of an expanded home. Certainly just adding on a quarter or half to a cape you’d simply move the end of the house out, not build a new one.

      Point being, folks used to be quite capable of staying within their means and re-using major parts of their house as they grew it.

    6. Alice Mary

      Time has come, again!

      Over the past 50+ years, we’ve gotten away from similar living arrangements as these.I think it’s time to bring them back!

      Growing up in Chicago, there were many “doubled-up” homes—a front house (usually larger, and usually a two-or three-flat or more), and a smaller house in back. I’m not sure if these came after the Chicago Fire (my grandmother who came to the US at age 10 in 1903 lived in one, in my old neighborhood) or after WWI—I have a photo of my newlywed grandparents standing in front of their rented “back house” circa 1920—had 3 kids there before Grandpa died at the ripe old age of just 36!). It was a very common arrangement in my old Chicago neighborhood.

      Also, a lot of shopkeepers owned their building (where they ran their business) and lived there in an apt. upstairs or in back of their business—bakeries, taverns, sausage shops, ma & pa grocery stores, were just a few of the “shop houses” I grew up around. So, these don’t seem unusual to me.

      I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…I’m ready for a Daadi (or DAWDIE, etc.) house right now! I hope this Amish tradition catches on REAL fast—and that “municipalities” don’t get involved with a lot of “ordinances”. Using modern technology, I think we can manage most safety issues.

      Alice Mary

      1. Matt from CT

        I don’t know the history of those houses in Chicago.

        I’ve read of similar things in New York and other northeastern cities — the house in the back came first, with a lawn in front. Later the relatively well-to-do owners moved to newer suburbs (the era of street car suburbs), and the new owners erected a larger building (higher rents!) and rented out apartments in both.

        In many New England cities, “Three Deckers” were common; often these were owner-occupied on the first floor with the second and third floor apartments rented out.

    7. OldKat

      A common sense approach

      I think that this is a really sound idea because these young folks are not biting off more than they can chew. The young Amish guy that trained my work horses had built a home that was within his barn. He needed the barn more than he needed a house, so he built the barn first and enclosed part of it for their house. He planned to build a home later and use the part of the barn that they were currently living in as a shop area. Of course, it helped that they had no children at the time.

      Many people say that today’s young people want the home (and possessions) that their parents accumulated over a lifetime the minute that they start out and that this isn’t possible. I disagree; it is possible. However, they will be in such debt to pay for all of this that they will really have to struggle to pay for all of it. Why put yourself under all that stress? Especially when you are just starting out.

      My wife and I lived for almost ten years in a mobile home that we purchased the year after we got married. We lived on the farm of a man that I worked for all the way through college. While our friends were going into big time debt to purchase their first homes we were salting away our savings to put down a bigger down payment on our home. I’m pretty sure that some of our family and friends did not approve of our choice, but guess what? That’s right, we didn’t care … it was what we could AFFORD at the time. People were probably a little more understanding when we put almost 30% down on our first ”conventional” home and they really understood the method to our madness when we paid it off just a little over 12 years after we bought it.

      So I say “Here is to you Amish young people; live within your means and laugh all the way to the bank!” We did.

      BTW: We sold the mobile home for just a couple of thousand dollars less than we paid for it and used that money to pay of an auto loan that we had, leaving our only debt as the payments on the our new (to us) home.

      1. Great story here Oldkat. I know of a few of the opposite example, as I imagine most of us do. I think there is a difference between having goals and expectations, and too much of the latter can lead to trouble.

    8. Don Curtis

      Shop Houses at Belle Center

      I read this topic to my son, Mark, who joined the Amish ten years ago. He told me that Belle Center has a number of shop houses. I’m not sure where they’d are even if he told me. I get all the Amish names and the county road numbers mixed up. Some are presently being lived in and some are tool sheds, now, that once contained living quarters as a starter house of a young family. He said that sometimes these starter houses have become “ending up houses” or daudy houses. After elderly parents decide to give up taking care of their own place they can move to a son or daughter’s place. With some rennovations the former living quarters in a shop can, once again, have a family residing in it, this time an elderly family. A number of farms have daudy houses built on the property or there are apartments added to the main house. Mark has his own home and farm. I live in the village for Belle Center in my own little home.

      1. This is interesting Don, I don’t believe I’ve ever been in a dawdi shop house.

    9. Ed

      So what kind of “shop” is inside these Amish homes?

      Kind of reminds me of the Singapore shophouses (see wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shophouse ). Seems that on either end of the globe, it can be really convenient to combine your workplace with your living space.

    10. Al in Ky.

      I enjoyed the pictures. There is a new shop house that was built
      in the Bromer/Paoli,Indiana settlement on Lynd School Road a few
      months ago. Looks similar to the one in the second picture. I travel that road at least once a week and it was interestig to see that new building making progress each week. I kept wondering what it was going to be — and then one day I saw that a clothesline had been hung and clothes were out to dry and I realized — it’s a shop house!

    11. where did you see this in Virginia?

      Hi, I live in Virginia and was wondering where you saw the shop houses in Virginia. I know there are Amish in Harrisonburg and Stuarts Draft…where else are they located in Virginia?
      enjoyed your blog and always do!

      1. Hi Rhonda, thanks! At this link you’ll find more on the Amish in VA. There aren’t too many communities. The shop house I saw was in Halifax County: https://amishamerica.com/amish-virginia/

    12. Kerry

      There are many around here, but the one just down the road from me is – gasp – a little sawmill!!!! I don’t know how the family stands it in the tiny little home side where they live and then all of the noise! They have several young children, too. Can’t be easy.