“ Address: 510 South Van Buren Street, Shipshewana, IN „
Menno -Hof Visitor Centre,
510 S Van Buren Street
Shipshewana, IN 46565 I
Phone: (260) 768-4117
When we planned our recent trip to the USA and the states around the Chicago area we were quite delighted to discover that there was a big Amish area in Indiana around Shipshewana. There was a huge market and auction once w week in Shipshewana so we planned our visit to coincide with this.
After exploring the market we decided to go over and have a look at the visitor centre in the town called the Menno-Hof Visitor Centre which was within easy walking distance of the market and just across the road.
PRICES AND OPENING TIMES
Adults: $6.50 children (ages 6-14): $3.50 family (two adults & all children ages 6-14): $16
September-May : Monday - Saturday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
June, July, August: Monday-Friday 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Saturday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
The centre is closed on Sundays and Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day
The tour lasts about an hour and a half and includes exhibits, interactive activities and simulations and sort of theatrical presentations.
A BIT OF HISTORY
This centre was a chance to learn about all the Anabaptist beliefs . I hadn't previously heard this term but "Anabaptists" share beliefs which began back in the 16th century and there are three main groups ,Hutterites, Mennonites, and Amish. Each group have slightly different interpretations but all have a basic belief in the fact that they choose to be baptized as adults who made a voluntary confession of faith which began in Zurich, Switzerland, on January 21 in 1525.
Rather amazingly when viewed from today's viewpoint, these rather harmless people were persecuted in Europe and had to constantly move from place to place to avoid attacks. They eventually leave Europe and make their way to America in sailing ships in the 17th century.
This centre allows visitors to learn about the history and heritage of the Amish, Mennonites and Hutterites. During the tour which is a flow through tour which you follow with a guide who opens and shuts each room as you move through the five centuries of history, from the start of the religion in Switzerland to their arrival in America and then their life and changes when in America.
When you arrive at the centre you are welcomed by Amish people, a small group of ladies who are sewing a quilt who were so friendly and happy to chat to you about where you were from and what they were doing, how they created the quilts etc.
The first room was dark and dismal and told the story of persecution, imprisonment and showed a prison and various instruments of torture. It was pretty dramatic and quite horrifying to hear quite so dramatically how people could be tortured because for their beliefs.
We then moved into a recreation of streets in Holland when the Anabaptists moved to after Switzerland.
As we move through the exhibits we pass through a reconstructed 17th sailing ship with the accommodation the Anabaptists would have experience on their way to America.
Onto the next was a reconstruction of a 19th century print shop showing how many books and papers were printed to share knowledge and obviously the spreading of their beliefs too.
Along the way the different rooms had displays showing how the different sects of Anabaptists differed and how they were similar. We learn why they wear the clothes that they do. The clothes are simple but designed to make them stand out from others in order to proclaim they love our God and their beliefs.
The Amish are the strictest of these sects and the Mennonites slightly less so with the Hutterites being the group most willing to accept modern changes such as cars and modern clothes.
They explain why they refuse to take on any of the modern technological advances into their lives. Apparently they feel that they can be closer to God if they don't take these into their homes so in the visitor centre they have computers and interactive displays but in their homes there is not even a radio never mind a TV. They work the land and use old methods of preservation such as jam making and bottling rather than freezing although I would have though a fridge was essential these days in the heat they have in the USA.
They don't have anything that would cause them to change their lives in any big way, nothing that would distract them from their simple way of life, nothing that would make them envious or want more; having said that some of the farm houses in the area were pretty nice looking from the outside.
Pride is considered a sin so they cannot be proud of their property although they all keep them immaculately. They can't be proud that they have their washing outside on the line earliest or even that they look most plain at church! I think I would struggle to be Amish as it is natural to be proud of your family and their achievements.
Another room in the visitors' centre was set up as a meeting house so that you could see how basic and simple it was with no fancy decor at all and pretty uncomfortable benches too.
The final small room we were shown into was the simulation of a tornado. The people who came out before we went in were saying they had to hold onto each other and it was very real but in fact as simulations go it was pretty tame the wind blows and the theatre shakes a bit and you got a good idea of the build up of tension but it was not as dramatic as the Darwin museum's Hurricane simulator.
When the tour finished you could spend time looking at other exhibitions and then make your way out though to the shop where you could see the ladies quilting a large quilt. We spent some time chatting to the ladies who were very friendly and really interested in where we were from and told us that they had had English visitors recently. We didn't delve into religious beliefs at all as we felt it wasn't the place really. They pointed out the quilt garden outside and told us that there are several quilt gardens in the area around Shipshewana.
WE went out to see the quilt garden and there was a stand with stairs leading up to a viewing platform so that you could see the quilt design from above and take a nice photo of the entire design.
The visitor centre is a building that looks a bit like a Dutch style American barn. The garden and grounds around are beautifully kept and the fence around perfectly white painted. It all looks a bit like Fisher Price Farm set, all neat and perfect.
The shop sold a variety of things, firstly books about the Anabaptists and their beliefs, also produce made by local farmers such as honey, toiletries made with natural ingredients, there were the most beautiful hand made quilts if you had thousands of dollars to spend, a number of hand woven baskets, little handmade dolls, and beeswax candles all products made by Amish either locally or further afield.
If you are in the area I would certainly recommend this visitor centre as it does help you understand the Amish and other Anabaptists a bit better. It was really well done, very interesting and I certainly learned a lot.
Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same username.
A visior centre and exhibitions where you learn about the Amish and anabaptists and their beliefs .Menno-Hof is a non-profit information center located in Shipshewana, Indiana, that teaches visitors about the faith and life of Amish and Mennonites.