A Closer Look at Amish Phone Shacks (11 Photos)

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.

New Wilmington Amish Phone

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.

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    1. Doreen Vaughn


      Who actually pays for the phones in the phone shacks?

      1. Mary Yoder

        phone shacks

        The people that live there buy the phones and pay for the phone service.

    2. Jessica Lowery


      Where ever you got your information it’s wrong. The new Virginia settlement is families from Lancaster and York counties PA I have personally driven and moved most of the families.

      1. Thanks Jessica, interesting, I was told by an Amishman in the Charlotte County community that they are “back and forth” with the St. Mary’s County MD community, and he didn’t seem to be much acquainted with Lancaster area Amish, though he could think of 1 or 2 families in Charlotte County that came from Lancaster.

        Just curious, how many families have you helped out with driving and moving? The Charlotte County settlement has been there since 1997, so it’s not exactly new, which makes me wonder if we are talking about two different places.

        I was also told of a growing community in what he referred to as Buckingham, but which has been referred to elsewhere as the area of Farmville in Prince Edward County (that community apparently has families in more than one county, including Buckingham County). That settlement was started in 2016.

        1. Weaver

          Honestly, there are so many different Amish communities (many very close to each other) that I don’t even believe the Amish population figures presented every year by Elizabethtown college. I’ve seen Amish on flights to Denver, bus rides to Iowa, and drives through parts of PA I did not expect them to be.

          The number of Amish people and communities I’ve come across makes me believe that their real population is larger than 330,000 estimated.

        2. Tim Scovill

          Central Virginia

          Buckingham County contains the ‘geographic ‘center’ of Virginia. Prince Edward County is the next county south where the town of Farmville is located. There is an increasing number of Amish settlers in the area several of which are from the greater Lancaster area. Cumberland County, east of Buckingham and close to Farmville is also experiencing some influx. By most accounts, The Amish families are most welcome and are likely to benefit the area in a variety of ways, economically socially and otherwise.

      2. Irene

        The comment here is bugging me. It really bothers me when i read someone who writes that some one that some one else is WRONG. It comes across as snarky. It really bothers me when people don’t THINK before they speak/write. To me, I would rather read something like this. Thanks for your article. My understanding of what you are saying here is different. GEEZ!!

    3. Ed

      We have seen those phone booths in Lancaster County, PA. We did not know they were phone booths.

    4. RONALD Scheffee

      Phone Shacks

      We live in Indiana and we travel the Shipshewana and Topeka area. There is a lot of RV industry in the area so their shacks use a lot of RV doors and products to make their shacks