Miss Amanda’s

An Amish neighbor’s kindness inspires an Airbnb

by Cheryl Allen
Posted 6/7/24


We may never know whose lives we touch with our simple, everyday acts of kindness. Yet sometimes, those simple things have an outsize impact.

Take, for example, Amanda Hochstedler. When …

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Miss Amanda’s

An Amish neighbor’s kindness inspires an Airbnb



We may never know whose lives we touch with our simple, everyday acts of kindness. Yet sometimes, those simple things have an outsize impact.

Take, for example, Amanda Hochstedler. When a new family moved in two doors down from her home on 5th Street in Kalona, she took some of the day’s harvest from her backyard vegetable garden to them and introduced herself.

“She was our first neighbor to greet us,” Courtney Tonning says.

“She was really sweet,” Cooper Tonning adds. “Someone you’d want to be your neighbor.”

Her thoughtfulness made an impression on the couple and their children, who moved to Kalona in August 2020. However, their time as neighbors would turn out to be brief; Miss Amanda passed away in November 2021 at age 87.

“Spunky,” “lively,” and “hardworking” are the words Courtney uses to describe Miss Amanda, who was a faithful member of the Old Order Amish Church.

“She was very open to giving away the things she didn’t need necessarily,” Cooper explains. “All of her extra produce would always seem to go to the neighbors.”

Miss Amanda’s garden must have been a particular joy to her; she grew both flowers and vegetables, and she had a variety of fruit trees, including peaches and cherries, and bushes, including raspberries and blackberries.

“She was always working, it seemed like, until the day she died,” Cooper says. “We’d peek over there, and she’s out there by herself, on her hands and knees,”

Miss Amanda’s passing, however, left the couple wishing they had had more time with her.

“I was hoping and dreaming that I’d be able to sit in her kitchen and have tea with her,” Courtney says, but it was not meant to be.

Miss Amanda’s house sat vacant for several months. Buyers would not have found it move-in ready; records indicate it was built in 1848 and would have been one of the first houses on the street. It included a barn and area where she would have pastured her horses, and there is a hitching post in addition to the gardens. However, it lacked electricity and updated plumbing. The layout of the living space was out of sync with modern lives.

However, Cooper and Courtney saw the property’s potential, perhaps not a surprise, as Cooper works as a real estate agent and Courtney as an interior design consultant.

The couple purchased Miss Amanda’s house in July 2022 with the intent to remodel and turn it into an Airbnb that would highlight its Amish heritage and provide a relaxing place to stay.

It took a little time to line up help for the extensive work the property needed.

“We thought we would attempt to tackle it ourselves, but we have four [young] kids,” Courtney says. “And I knew I wanted to open up the inside, and that would be way over our capacity. So having the general contractor and engineers and architects get involved was helpful.”

The couple called on local businesses to help, including Home Works Remodeling, Graber Heating & Air, and English River Plumbing.

Today, “it’s a completely different house,” Courtney says, but “to honor Miss Amanda, I want to incorporate some of the colors she had in her home, and I’ll keep some her original doors just to keep that quirkiness to it.” She plans to include Amish décor and prints in its decoration as well.

The two-bedroom, one bath home now has all of the modern comforts guests expect, including a freestanding tub, dishwasher, and washer/dryer.

Although remodeling the house – which required taking the walls down to the studs – was an extensive undertaking, it is not the whole of the Tonnings’ plans for the property.

“Eventually we want to redo the barn, too, and have kind of an Amish museum of different things,” Courtney says. “A low-key thing for the guests of the Airbnb.”

“We’ve talked to [Miss Amanda’s] family and we’re in contact with her nephew, who is in town as well. He’s got a bit of church buy-in, so they’re going to help provide some stuff and help us furnish that part of the museum,” Cooper adds.

For now, the Tonnings are working on finishing up the house and getting it ready to welcome guests.

“I think it will be a good spot for people to get some respite from Iowa City, or any of the surrounding towns,” Cooper says.

And an important part of the experience will be paying forward a bit of Miss Amanda’s generosity.

“We have talked about having a butternut squash for our guests, because that was one of the things that she brought us,” Cooper says.

The Tonnings hope to have “Miss Amanda’s” ready to rent early this summer. Check Airbnb.com for the listing.

Amish house, Airbnb, Kalona, Iowa