Final stop for this weekend’s journey and we are going out in unique fashion at The House on the Rock. What exactly is this place? In a nutshell, an entire estate built by a creative madman named Alex Jordan, Jr. that is a living breathing LSD trip (and I mean all of that in a good way). “The central Japanese garden seems pretty normal,” you say. “What on Earth could be crazy here?”
You’re right, the garden is very nice. It even has multiple waterfalls, gorgeous landscaping, and a Koi pond. So we continue the tour – there are 3 sections and we did all of them today which took 3+ hours.
Why is it called House on the Rock? Alex Jordan built the house atop Deer Shelter Rock, a nearby high point. Parts of the natural geology show through in the architecture and there are even sections of living trees going directly through the rooms.
Possibly the most famous feature that HotR is known for is called the Infinity Room, a long corridor that hangs over 200 feet off the cliffside and an amazing optical illusion.
I’m not able to detail everything contained in the House mainly because I just don’t have time. Instead the remaining photos should serve as a Cliffs Notes to wet your pallete of what HotR has to offer. In the first exhibit area there are some interesting antique pieces such as these early gambling machines. Many of the items are wild throwbacks to a time period we don’t see any longer.
And now we are departing from sanity. Large display cases full of firearms – some possibly real, others like these multi-barrel flint lock apparatus more clearly crafted for art purposes only.
Entire rooms full of dolls and other antiques. Dolls. Totally not creepy, totally not watching you with every step.
Looking closely at some of the finer details it becomes clear that reality combines with paraody & fantasy to make an entire wild experience. Here in a replica medicine shop at the Streets of Yesterday section is a flyer advert selling tapeworms as a safe method for weight loss.
Another type of attraction that HotR is most known for are the gigantic room-size automated mechanical Calliope music machines. What’s Calliope? Think old-timey circus or steamboat music from the early 1900’s. (Watch more in the YouTube video linked below to find out!)
There is an entire 3 story section dedicated to nautical-themed items. Absolutely the most visually astonishing piece is a large plaster Moby Dick style monster whale creature that fills the entire building.
Apparently Alex Jordan was an excellent model ship builder and there are many of his creations on display. At the beginning of the tour you can read more about his personal life history and watch a film detailing parts of his origin story.
Many of the nautical displays contain what look like ivory walrus tusks. All of them are scrimshawed with various designs and (I’m assuming) all of them are replicas because the scrimshaw art is exact duplicates of each other. Mainly including this photo because I really like how it turned out in this lighting.
So much more exists that people typically gloss over. I’m including this eery & drab display because I thoroughly enjoy that type of art style. Keep in mind this is not a painting – its a huge 3D diorama. Contemplating how many man-hours anything in this place took to create gives an appreciation for the scale of what they created.
Back to the Calliope machines. Huge rooms filled instruments adorned in mechanical skeletons and arranged as if the orchestra players suddenly disappeared. Fantastical backdrops with wild, vivid colors. Amazing imagination to come up with this.
Another room full of different architectural features, statues, chandelier adornments – the list goes on and on…
Some sections are largely influenced by Asian culture, mostly Chinese I would assume. This one has a Genghis Khan looking fellow behind a huge timpani drum.
We noticed several maintenance men during our tour and I would guess they stay very busy. Some of the amazing displays that I remember from past visits are down for maintenance until later this Fall. I’m sure keeping all this machinery operational is no small task.
At the crossroads between Exhibits 2 & 3 is another famous feature. Advertises as the world’s largest indoor carousel, this monstrous beast holds 269 animals, 20,000 lights, and 183 chandeliers (according to their website). The scale of these huge displays is hard to capture on film but an amazing sight to observe in person.
You can visit this page to see more of the exhibits and I strongly urge you to take the tour if nearby Spring Green, Wisconsin. Trust me, this experience is unlike anything you can imagine.
Here’s a short compilation of nightmare fuel for your enjoyment purposes!
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