The Amana Colonies were founded in Iowa in 1855 by a Christian sect escaping persecution in Germany. Near Cedar Rapids, the group settled seven villages, which became the longest-surviving communal religious societies in the United States. Residents shared all their property and resources, and the community provided homes, food and jobs. Though the Amana colonists eventually adopted a system of private ownership, their religion and communal values carried on. Today, the villages still look much as they did in the 19th century. Visitors are welcome to tour historic buildings dating to the mid-1850's and see the colonies’ gardens, farms, orchards and mills. The villages have been a registered historic landmark since 1965.
Madison County’s covered bridges inspired the 1992 best-selling novel and 1995 movie "The Bridges of Madison County." The movie, which starred Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood, was filmed here. The six famous bridges date back as early as 1871, and were covered to preserve their wooden timbers from Iowa’s harsh winters.