Do you take the time to look for adventures near you? When Gary and I have a day off together, we take advantage of it. Many times we just get in the car and get away together, we love our road trips. This time we decided to check out a tourist attraction, The House on the Rock, one of Wisconsin’s most unbelievable attractions, located in Spring Green, WI. An attraction that most people outside of the Midwest have probably never heard of.
We have been finding so many places to visit right here in Wisconsin, having a blast discovering these things together.
For us, it’s a 3-hour drive to Spring Green. During the drive, I decided to do some looking online to see what information I could dig up.
Did Frank Lloyd Wright build The House on the Rock?
We have always thought that The House on the Rock was built and designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It’s apparent many other people think so also. Almost everyone we asked also thought it was built by Frank Lloyd Wright. We were all wrong.
On the way to The House on the Rock, we came across The Frank Lloyd Wright visitor center. We stopped in to continue doing our research. We had a very interesting conversation with the couple working at the Visitor Center. They shared with us a “story” of Alex Jordan building The House on the Rock to spite Frank Lloyd Wright. The “story” is that Alex Jordan admired Frank Lloyd Wright and his work so much that he drove to Taliesin to show Frank some designs. Frank took one look at Jordan’s designs and told him that he wouldn’t hire him to build a chicken coop.
The Couple at the Visitor Center then shared bits and pieces about why that timeline or “story” does not work. The main reason being that apparently when the “story, event” was to have taken place, Jordan would have been 9 years old.
Another account is that the home has a life of its own, and one thing just lead to another. Anyone who has gone through a remodeling project could see how that’s possible.
Even if it wasn’t specifically built to spite Frank Lloyd Wright, Jordan almost certainly had him in mind. There are so many similarities between, Wright’s and Jordan’s unusual designs. You’ll have to do your own digging on the mysterious story and decide what you believe is the truth behind The House on the Rock.
Who was Alex Jordan – The man behind The House on the Rock
There are three books written about Alex Jordan and still, much of who he really was is still a mystery. He has been described as a recluse, who did not like to be in the spotlight, a shadowy figure and an architectural genius. One can’t help but wonder if The House on the Rock gives us a true glimpse of Alex Jordan, the man that some thought built The House on the Rock to spite Frank Lloyd Wright who lived just 10 minutes away.
History of The House on the Rock
In the early 1940s, Alex Jordon discovered Deer Shelter Rock. He fell in love with it and this became his favorite picnic spot. He loved it so much he then began pitching a tent and camping on those rocks. One night after his tent blew away, Jordan decided he wanted something more permanent. He dreamed of a Japanese style house right on top of the rocks.
In 1945, Alex Jordan talked to the farmer who owned the rocks but did not bother to secure formal rights to the property. Yet, he still began construction of his dream vacation home. Alex started off by renting the rock and a bit of land around it from the local farmer. He first built a small studio with a fireplace. Following that, Alex, with the help of his parents, purchased the 240-acre property so he could continue to build his dream.
During the construction, due to its unusual architecture and location, Alex had many curious onlookers. Some of the onlookers started knocking on his door and yelling up to the top of the rock asking what he was building. They were so intrigued and continually asking to see the inside. For the price of 50 cents, Jordan gave them a tour of the structure while it was in its construction phase. These meager pennies helped with the cost of construction.
In 1959 Jordan, with the encouragement of his parents, placed a stone marker alongside the highway and in 1960 officially opened the house to paying visitors. The first day The House on the Rock was open they made $15. That first year the attraction grossed a total of $5,000. In 1961 the attraction sales grossed $34,000. Alex Jordon’s dream home just became a tourist attraction.
Alex Jordan’s retreat became known as The House on the Rock due to the fact it is built on top of that chimney of rocks referred to as Deer Shelter Rock. The ones that Jordan fell in love with and had many picnics on before his vision for The House on the Rock came into existence.
In the years that followed the construction of the original house, Alex continued to expand his vision. Additions were made to the original structure and other buildings added over the course of several decades. Everything Jordan collected and built was on a massive scale. Creating an attraction with some of the world’s most unique and quirky collections.
- 1968 the Mill House opened with one of the world’s largest fireplaces.
- 1971 Streets of Yesterday opened. Very much like an exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum – Streets of Old Milwaukee.
- 1974 Music of Yesterday opened
- 1981 what is said to be the World’s Largest Carousel was added and the Carousel Building opened.
- 1985 The Infinity Room was constructed.
- 1988 The House on the Rock was sold to Jordan’s longtime friend Art Donaldson. A gentleman who shared Jordan’s interests and continued to complete Jordan’s vision even after his death.
- 1990 – The “Heritage of the Sea” opened.
- 1991 – The “Octopus’ Garden” was added to the Heritage of the Sea. “The Blue Danube” debuted at the House, along with the House On The Rock Carriage Collection, which would still add more nostalgia to the Transportation Building.
- 2008 – Two additional buildings; the Welcome Center and the Alex Jordan Jr. Center (a museum detailing Mr. Jordan’s personal life and the construction of the complex’s many buildings) were constructed.
The House on the Rocks | Hours, Dates and Rates
- Summer ~ May 18 – October 11, 2020 (open Daily) 9 am to 5 pm
- Fall ~ October 12 – November 15, 2020, 9 am – 5 pm (Open Thursday – Monday. Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays)
- Winter ~ Nov 19, 2020 – Jan 3, 2021, 9 am to 5 pm. (Open Thursday – Monday. Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays) not all of the displays are open
- Spring ~ March 12 – May 17, 2020, 9 am – 5 pm (Open Thursday – Monday. Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays)
There are 3 different self-guided tours to The House on the Rock. You can choose how much you want to visit.
- The Original House Experience ~ Adults $14.95
A self-guided visit of Section 1.
Section 1 includes:
*The Alex Jordan Center, highlighting the history of Jordan’s dream and his construction
*The Original House
*The Gate House
*The Japanese Garden.
- The Highlight Experience ~Adults $24.95
A self-guided visit of everything in section 1 plus section 2.
Section 2 includes:
*The Spirit of Aviation
*Music of Yesterday
*Streets of Yesterday,
*The Mill House
*The Heritage of the Sea
*World’s Largest Carousel
Check out this list of The World‘s Most Famous Carousels.
- The Ultimate Experience ~ Adults $29.95
A self-guided visit of all three sections. This experience includes all of sections 1 & 2 plus section 3
Section 3 includes:
*The Organ Room
*The Doll House Room,
*The Circus Room
*The Doll Carousel Room
- After our visit to The House on the Rock and enjoying The Highlight Experience sections 1 and 2, we would recommend that you allow at least 1 1/2 to 2 hours for each section. Towards the end of section 2, sit down concessions are available for purchase. Food and drinks are only allowed in the concession area.
- Be prepared to walk, wear comfortable shoes, and don’t carry a lot in with you. Due to the unusual hallways, stairs, twists, and turns the House on the Rock is not wheelchair or stroller friendly.
- All rates are current at the time of publishing and are subject to change. Visit The House on the Rock Site for current rates and to purchase tickets
The House on the Rock Location
The House on the Rock is located at 5754 State Rd. 23, Spring Green WI, is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. The drive to is beautiful and scenic. With rolling hills and beautiful countryside. I just sat back and soaked it all in while Gary drove. It was easy to see why Alex Jordan would have fallen in love with the area. Yet raises the question as to how he found this particular spot.
When we finally arrived the sign was simple, making us wonder, “Have we really arrived”? After parking and walking up to the entrance we were questioning if everything we had read about The House on the Rock could possibly be featured inside.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman | The House on the Rock
The House On the Rock played a significant role in Neil Gaiman’s novel, “American Gods,” In the book, The House on the Rock is referred to as being a portal into the mind of the Gods. In the book there are long passages where The House on the Rock attraction and many of the exhibits are described down to the oddest details. Gaiman wrote the book in a lakeside cabin near Menomonie, Wisc., he said he actually had to “un-weird” the popular tourist site to make it believable.
When first walking in, everything about The House on the Rock seems normal, not like anything that was described. The scenic drive is relaxing, the Lobby is warm and welcoming, yet once you open the door to the actual house tour, you realize Alex had an incredible imagination. Although the book is very descriptive, what was written could not come close to describing the insane feeling one gets walking through the sights, each one more over the top than the next.
The House on the Rock | Alex Jordan’s Home
The tour starts in The Alex Joran Center with an extensive exhibit of sketches, blueprints, old photos and a really interesting look at Alex’s personal life.
We got a slight glimpse of a man who saved everything. Jordan was a collector all his life, he himself enjoyed visiting museums. He did not want The House on the Rock to be a museum. It was built to be his vacation home.
The original 13 room home, although intriguing, is dark and gloomy. Each room of the home is more peculiar than the last. You’ll notice impressive but relatively mundane sights. Large, comfortable rooms filled with massive fireplaces, stone seating and chandeliers hanging over dimly-lit chambers of dark woodwork.
There is a quaint and vintage feel to the home, with nooks and crannies everywhere filled with something that Jordan collected. The aesthetics of the house copy the outdoor surroundings of The House on the Rock as if Jordan built the home around the trees and nature.
It is said Alex Jordan only spent 4 nights in the house. Yet it is said that he hosted lavish parties at The House on the Rock.
The House on the Rock | Infinity Room
The Infinity Room is next on your tour. It appears to be a part of the original home but was later addition and not constructed until 1985.
At 218 feet long the room tapers from the house to a point, without any support underneath, creating the uncanny illusion that this room extends into infinity.
The room is filled with over 3,000 individual window squares. The view is breathtaking. At the end of it, there’s a little window on the floor, just in case you’re brave enough to look down from 156 feet above the forest floor onto the tops of the trees while the wind gently rocks the whole structure.
The House on the Rock | Streets of Yesterday
Streets of Yesterday is a stunning re-creation of a 19th-century street, with red-brick and cobblestone roads. A place to step back in time as you window shop the many storefronts.
Have a little fun visiting the dentist’s office, carriage house, sheriff’s office, and hundreds of antiques.
Tokens are required to play the music and animation machines throughout the complex. Tokens are available (4/dollar) throughout the tour. Token dispensing machines are in: the Mill House, Heritage of the Sea, Music of Yesterday, and by the Blue Danube music machine. Employees of the sales team also carry tokens to sell. We also found a fortune teller game. Gary and I both had to try at several. It became hard to walk past a music machine and not try them, each of them is so unique.
The World’s Largest Carousel
Among Jordan’s collections, is the world’s largest carousel. Stepping into the carousel room your senses are almost on overload. The sights of the lights and the scantly clothed angels along with the constant music coming from both the angels and the carousel cause you to just stop a moment. and take it all in.
The Carousel boasts 269 carousel animals, 182 chandeliers, over 20,000 lights, and hundreds of mannequin angels hanging from the ceiling all around it. This amazing display of lights, animals, and figurines takes up one entire building at The House on the Rock.
The World’s Largest Carousel made its debut in 1981 and measures 80 feet in diameter, is 35 feet high, and weighs 36 tons!
Ironically, not one of the animals on the carousel is a horse. It is said that horses were part of the original crew of animals but Jordan had them either replaced or reconstructed into another animal.
Most of the time on our tour seemed dimly lit as if we were either underground or no windows in most areas. Many of Jordan’s areas in the home brought the outdoors inside. It was so nice to walk outdoors at times down either long connecting bridges or hallways into the garden courtyard, even though it was winter. we can’t wait to come back in the summer and see The House on the Rock gardens in full bloom.
To call The House on the Rock unique, quirky, or peculiar is an understatement. It’s hard to not be overwhelmed by it all. Pictures will not fully describe the feeling one gets walking through this almost eerie at times masterpiece.
While visiting The House on the Rock you’ll see so many other collections, a 200-foot sea creature, maritime displays, Titanic memorabilia, a huge steam engine even a mechanical calliope. The list of Jordan’s collections is extensive. It is no wonder the project of The House on the Rock took on a life of its own and kept expanding.
Looking for that insane over the top adventure of your imagination! Look no further than The House on the Rock! We were there in the winter and section 3 was closed. Even after the months have passed we can’t wait to go back and see the areas that we missed.
The fun part was that is was Christmas and The House on the Rock was decked out for the Holidays. Imagine decorating this quirky Wisconsin attraction with all of it’s hidden nooks and crannies.
Hotels near The House on the Rock
After your visit to the attraction, there are several hotels in the area to just kick back and relax until you head out to your next stop, of possibility the Wisconsin Dells or Cave of the Mounds. It’s just a short distance from Spring Green, Wisconsin. We had such a great time in the Wisconsin Dells and put together a list of activities you must do in the Wisconsin Dells that are not water parks.
Best Western Dodgeville Inn & Suites
The Best Western Inn & Suites in Dodgeville Wisconsin offers a family-friendly atmosphere with an array of amenities designed for travelers.
Rooms at Best Western Dodgeville offer a flat-screen TV, a refrigerator, and air conditioning providing exceptional comfort and convenience, and guests can go online with free wifi.
GrandStay Hotel & Suites Mount Horeb – Madison
The GrandStay Hotel & Suites Mount Horeb is conveniently located on US-151. The GrandStay offers a variety of meticulously clean and beautifully appointed rooms. Their sparkling indoor pool and spa will help you unwind after a long day of work or play.
Getting to The House on the Rock: flights, transportation, driving
Wisconsin has one major airport, Milwaukee WI. We had an amazing weekend in Milwaukee the city itself is worth checking out. Its German influence makes it a very interesting city to stop, have a beer, and explore. Milwaukee is also home to The Harley Davidson Museum, the birthplace of Harley Davidson Motor Company.
If you are not within driving distance from central Wisconsin, one of the easiest options to visit The House on the Rock is to fly into Milwaukee International Airport (MKE). Check out TripAdvisor you’ll have multiple travel options, depending on where you’re coming from and how much time and money you’re willing to spend.
Renting a car is the fastest and possibly even the cheapest option from the airport, so we’d recommend looking into that. Then drive is approximately 120 miles to Spring Green, WI.
Central Wisconsin has so many interesting areas to explore, many of them we have visited, Cave of the Mounds, The Wisconsin Dells, The Renaissance Fair in Bristol WI, and even The Center of the Northwest Hemisphere.
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