The House on the Rock is a magical, musical place of imagination. Today on Globetrotting Grandpa we have a guest blog from my friend, Michael. This is the first part of a multi-part series of this fascinating house and museum.
The House on the Rock is located just south of Spring Green, Wisconsin on Highway 23 only 45 minutes west of the state capital of Madison. Alex Jordan created this unusual structure along with 16 separate buildings. The complex includes the world’s largest carousel and detailed recreation of a 19th Century U.S. Main street. Alex Jones was very creative and didn’t know the meaning of the word “No.” As far as creativity, I would put this on the same level of Walt Disney. Whatever he imagined he created.
There is too much to write about or see to be put in just one blog post. So, I will concentrate on the different areas (buildings) in blogs to come. The day we went it took us six hours to see everything, and we were overbooked just seeing what we saw.
Alex Jordan started creating in the early 1940s. He selected a site in southwest Wisconsin that had not been ground and reshaped by glaciers millions of years ago. Today, you see the first hills, valleys, and natural formations. Alex chose a 70 by 200-foot plateau with a 60-foot chimney-shaped pinnacle known locally as “Deer Shelter Rock.” Alex would often come down to the grounds for picnics and enjoy the 30-mile circular vista.
The house consists of 13 rooms, each room built one at a time. Yet somehow, they all seem to flow together. Alex Jordan had no formal training in Art or Engineering. His only practice came from helping his father on various building projects in Madison. Five thousand tons of limestone and 500 tons of mortar make up the walls of the house. Jordan was a workforce of one for many years until he finally added help in the late 1950s.
Most of the rooms were designed for specific purposes: music, reading or listening to music, for example. Alex intended this to be a work of art, so he never created a bedroom. In fact, he never even lived in the house. Jordan kept an apartment in Madison and would drive down every day to work on the construction.
In 1960, Alex Jordan finally opened the house up to public tours. The entryway to the complex is the Gate House. The Gate House includes a ramp to enter the main House’s Front Door. In the Gate House, you see the influences you see continue throughout the complex. You see wood, stone, Asian and other ethnic artwork as well as stained glass. Jordon loved music, and his music machines are located throughout the houses. In the main house, you can hear mechanical harps, pianos, and percussion playing Ravel’s “Bolero.”
Alex Jordan was good at creating a mood in every room and corner of the home. The house is a treat for the senses. Around every corner is a new vista to discover. There are stained glass Tiffany lamps, statuary, artifacts from the Orient, and a gallery of bells. There is a three-story library next to a cozy reading room. You can even go out on the roof and get a 360-degree view of the surrounding valley.
A Tiffany Dragon Lamp
Several portions of the home have limited accessibility with narrow passageways and stairs. The house is dusty so those with allergies would need to exercise caution. On the next blog in the series will be “The Bridge to Infinity.”