The first clue that I’d arrived in the Amish area of Charlotte County, Virginia was a sign warning of buggy traffic for the next 15+ miles.
The second indication was this little building on the side of the road:
There were phone shacks (or shanties) just like this one found throughout this community of two churches.
The Amish here have ties to the Mechanicsville (St. Mary’s County), Maryland community. Mechanicsville is a sister settlement of the Lancaster County Amish.
The Amish here look like Lancaster County Amish, but come across as plainer on the whole.
And while many Lancaster Amish might have a phone much closer to the home (in a farm or business building), putting these shacks at the end of the lane seems to be the norm in Charlotte County.
Here’s a closer look at the first one I came across.
Not much inside! Not even a place to sit down.
Basically a phone hung up, and not much else. There was a notebook and some business cards inside, otherwise it was bare. It looks like they still have some work to do to finish this one.
Some other phone shanties, such as those in northern Indiana, are fancier than these. Some in this community have doors, but others are open, like this one:
It does have a folding chair inside though, for longer chats:
Here’s one with a door. But even the simpler ones have a window so you can at least look outside while you’re talking.
I assume these all have standard phones inside. On that note, the most spartan phone shacks I have ever come across were those in New Wilmington, PA, which were basically plywood boxes with pay phones installed inside.
The phone shack is a compromise which allows Amish to have phone access, but not have it too close.
Some Amish – particularly business owners in more progressive communities – are using smartphones. On the other hand, the most conservative Amish have no phone whatsoever, and might have to ask to use an English neighbor’s phone when need arises.
The phone shack is a middle-of-the-road solution to making sure the phone remains an accessible tool – but not a way of life.