Mystery shack explained?

We got a lot of interesting guesses on the Allen County mystery shack.  Everything from a portable toilet to a shepherd shelter to an Amish buggy camper.

Now, I will preface this by saying that being Sunday, I did not have a chance to confirm.  But I’m pretty sure this:

grabill indiana amish

has to do with this:

allen county indiana amish school

That’s an Amish school in Allen County.  Bigger than you’d expect.  Amish schools in Allen County are unusual.  These schools are Amish-run, but are in a sense “consolidated”.  There are only a few of them, and they are built large–often two stories like the one above.

You can read the interesting history of how that came to be in Plain Diversity, a book on Indiana Amish by Steven Nolt and Thomas Meyers.   Nolt and Meyers tell us that local school districts long provided bussing of Amish children to Amish parochial schools (having done the same for Lutheran and Catholic schools in the Fort Wayne area).

Bussing has allowed Amish to build fewer but larger schools (some having over 100 students).  So I believe my “road-ready chicken coop” is actually a little hut where kids wait for the bus in inclement weather.  Here’s a wider view of the same photo:

amish indiana school shack

You can see it is by the road right at the end of the lane.  Assuming I’m right, I don’t think this is common, though I did see at least one other structure in the community that could serve the same purpose.

I’m not sure it didn’t have a different function in another life.  The roof is interesting.  I assume the SMV triangle was either decoration or may actually give the bus driver an indication where to stop, say in a heavy snowstorm.

So, I’m pretty sure that’s what this is, though I may be totally off here.  Hey, if it turns out to be an ice-fishing hut someone happened to leave by the side of the road, that would be pretty cool too.

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    1. Nancee

      Mystery shack

      My first thought was it might be an outdoor bathroom. Second thought was a phone shack, but it’s on the large size for that. Were you able to enter it to see what was inside? My curiosity would have gotten the best of me. I might have to take a drive from Grand Rapids, MI to this location and check it out for myself. LOL!

    2. Debbie Welsh

      Hello? Where is everyone? I think you’ve stumped us into stunned silence or something with your explanation, Erik! I, for one, am quite surprised as there are no windows on the shelter other than the door. However, it does make sense given your explanation about the children being bussed to school ( another surprise ), and perhaps it did serve another purpose at one time. I just can’t get over that big two-story, modern school, though!

    3. Bad weather bus shelters are pretty common in these parts – I hadn’t thought about busing to school!

    4. linda saul

      Mystery shack

      I guess it could be a bus shelter, but I would think they would have put a window in it. Also they really don’t neeed a slow moving sign on it just to bring it out to end of lane. My husband thinks it is more likely an ice fish hut.

    5. Karen Pollard

      I’m amazed at your school picture. I’ve NEVER seen a brick Amish school. I thought they were always plain and white siding.

    6. You know, that crossed my mind after I commented! Saw a little bus stop enclosure not far from my home over the weekend and it reminded me of that. Mystery solved! 🙂

    7. Dave


      Erik, I think you’re right twice. It’s probably an ice fishing shanty that may have multi purposes. If you look closer at the bottom frame, it looks like it is elevated. Ice fisherman will open a hatch in the floor and drill into the ice. PS: how does one post an image in their blog?

      1. Thanks Dave, very interesting…on photos, I don’t have a feature for posting photos here (hmmm maybe a good thing to add) but you can post them on the Amish America Facebook page, or send them to me at ewesner (at)

    8. Ok, I see solar panel on roof and a propane tank but no chimmey or wood stove stacks – how do they heat the thing?

      1. By ‘thing’ I was meaning school building…

        1. Chimneys

          Tom there are 2 chimneys on the other side of the solar panels. You can’t see them b/c of the angle. I posted another photo of this school on the Amish America Facebook page, where they are visible.

    9. Yup, just saw that posting on FB. Thanks for extra photo, all is right with the Universal Life Force now…

    10. I’m still sticking with some others here and IMO it a ice fishing shack. SMV sign is probably for when they drag it down some road to lake and red light on it could very well be connected to one or more tip-ups by battery, letting fishermen know they’ve got a catch if they are out of the hut…

      Most phone shanties I’ve seen are permamently built and wooden plus there are no lines running to it and I would also tend to believe if this were a bus shack for kids it would be built the same way as their phone shanties are wooden and somewhat permament…

      1. Very interesting. That may very well be the case Tom. Even if it is used as a bus shelter now I doubt that is what it was originally constructed for.

        What keeps getting me is that it is plopped on the side of the lane right where you’d find a kid’s bus shelter–in the middle of the summer.

        Amish homes in Allen County are extremely tidy (they remind me of Lancaster Amish in this sense) so it strikes me as odd that they would leave an ice fishing shack right there in what seems like a permanent position–unless they are about to haul it off somewhere. Hmmm.

        As for phone shanty–I could only see this design being a shanty if they REALLY wanted to discourage using the phone…I think I’d need a crowbar to cram myself in there 🙂

    11. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      A venue for the Amish behaving “Rumspringa-gy”

      Rumspringa-gy things that the kids in their Amish gangs can get up to while waiting to go to school, at a more innocent bent, they may make that into an Amish smoke shop, or worse!