One of our must sees in Wisconsin is the famous House on the Rock in Spring Green. The attraction is made up of the orginal house and gardens and various collections of Alex Jordan Jr. The entire attraction is now a resort and the story behind the creation of this hoarders paradise is as convoluted, mysterious and ridiculous as the attraction itself.
Supposedly, the House was originally conceived as a slight to Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural style by Alex Jordan’s father. As the story goes, Jordan Sr. was a builder and a huge fan of Wright and once got the opportunity to show some architectural drawings to him. Wright took one look at the drawings and told Jordan that he would “NEVER hire him to design so much as a chicken crate.” The insult had such a profound effect on Jordan senior and his son that it was possibly the seminal motivation for the House on the Rock.
The House on the Rock staff disputes many of these claims (see the wiki entry here), but a quick look at their “rebuttals” make the story seem true (their “facts” don’t specifically rebut anything said). I guess it just adds intrigue to the story (and money to their pockets)
The original house is full of interesting architectural elements, strange furniture (lots of couches) and kooky collectibles. The most interesting feature – The Infinity Room was what we looked forward to most. It hovers 218 feet away the house, with the last 140 feet completely suspended 156 feet over the wooded canopy below. The end of the room tapers, so that from the correct angle, it appears to continue forever. Very cool.
The house is quite a tour of its own, but makes up only 1/3 of the overall “House on the Rock” experience.
The other two sections are the warehouses that display the collections of Alex Jordan Jr. Doll houses, guns, musical animatrons, scale models and more are jammed into the two warehouses in well-organized, but often creepy layouts. Some are arranged in thematic exhibits like the “Streets of Yesterday” that has 19th century storefronts, or the organ room that features, you guessed it, organs.
But, your breath is taken away in the Heritage of the Sea exhibit. In addition to countless treasures of nautical lore which Jordan purportedly purchased from a museum, the room is centered by a three story tall, 200 foot long sculpture of a giant whale (which one online review pointed out has both baleen teeth AND sharp fangs) doing battle with an equally giant octopus whose eyes are only slightly above the splashing ocean. A man in a wooden row boat paddles frantically away from the mammoth which has already eaten another sea captain as evidenced by the 12 foot row boat remains on his massive tongue.
No one has definitively been able to tell us, and research is scarce about where exactly the money for these collections was made. Alex Jordan doesn’t seem to have much of a business history, and since we know his father only as a failed architect we know he didn’t inherit his wealth. But, the $29 per person tour rate is probably a pretty good source of income for Jordan’s estate.
More about the hoarder’s paradise here.