Day 4: House on the Rock, WI

250 miles
$28 ($21 camping + $7 MN state park reg): Myre-Big Island State Park

We had a big storm last night. The kind of storm that has the local networks preempting usual programming with storm coverage. It was intense, but the Airstream didn’t budge, and just a few light branches are strewn about the campsite in the morning. On the way out, I had to dodge a lot of low branches, and the remnants of downed limbs. I was between Madison and Dubuque in this photo.

Soon I was en route to House on the Rock in Spring Green, Wisonsin. I had been told by some friends that it was a “must see”, but I wasn’t not prepared for the scope of what I saw. This was the look on my face throughout the three-section tour:

It’s overwhelming. It’s emotional. It’s like touring a Jules Verne novel with a soupçon of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Section 1, for instance:

Ravel’s Bolero. And the Infiniti Room:

Even the Men’s bathroom in this section has head-scratching details.

For you ladies out there, who have not spent much time in a men’s bathroom, urinals are usual laid out side-by-side, with dividers between them. Eyes ahead. Nothing to see here. But these. These. Well, you see the issue. I took this photo while the room was empty.

Throughout Section 1, the ceilings are low. Perhaps in homage to Frank Lloyd Wright, but very low. Thankfully, many are carpeted. But I couldn’t help wonder if Alex Jordan, Jr. was five feet tall, and kept a cadre of very short friends. I suppose I could look that up. But I won’t. I will just share this.

Most everything in House on the Rock is dimly lit. Perhaps to save on the electric bill. Perhaps to keep it cool. Perhaps to keep visitors slightly disoriented. I heard one ask her husband “how do you think they clean this?”.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of Rock Hudson’s bachelor pad in “Pillow Talk”.

I did’t know how to pace myself. I thought sections 2 and 3 might be similar adventures in musty Wright-esque architecture.

I was wrong.

So very wrong.

After a brief respit with a view of a Japanese garden, nothing prepares you for Section 2.

“Can I help you?”

“I said: Can. I. Help. You?”

I’ve talked about my teary response to greatness before. When I hear a great male chorus in Mahler, or Wagner’s Tannhauser chorus, or visit the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel, or the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, I have a gut reaction to tear up. When I see greatness. I did not expect that reaction at the House on the Rock, but there it was. Room after room. Incredulous at the increasing scale.

I took some amazing Theta 360 shots, but I’m not ready to pay WordPress $25/month for the “Business”plan required to post them seamlessly. Sorry. I wish I could. But, I can link to a page where the shots are hosted, and can be viewed.

Click here for a view of “Section 1”.

Click here for the nautical area of “Section 2”.

The collections are amazing. And random. And expensive. If e-Bay had existed during Alex Jordan’s time, there’s no telling what damage he could do.

Ever wonder what a camera shop from the 1940’s would be like? Wonder no more.

I kid you not: Miss Kitty Dubios’ Budoir.

If you owned a 1963 Lincoln, wouldn’t you want to cover every inch in bathroom tile?

Of course you would. Every. Inch.

You’re given 4 token with the price of admission ($29.95), but get more. Much more. There are so many opportunities to use them.

Then, there’s this.

We can all be replaced by machines. Even an orchestra.

And what really got me teared up was the “Mikado Room“.

Even the dining area between sections is mid-century epic.

Each section is more outlandish than the next.

Animatronic orchestras? Yes, please.

Like I’ve said – it’s overwhelming. And then you come to this (in 360).

And in case you haven’t seen enough animatronic orchestras, there’s more.

Like most orchestras during the summer season, it’s “under restoration” and will be back in the Fall of 2018. NEA funding can be fickle.

Have you seen enough? Wait. There’s still one more section. A section that includes a Jules Verne-esque organ dungeon with beer-making undertones.

If you were an organist, would these consoles excite, or terrify you?

Here’s one more shot.

You thought it couldn’t get any weirder? You would be wrong.

Have you ever wondered how to conceal a pistol in a prosthetic leg?

What is 1970’s disco Barbra Streisand doing dancing with a giant elephant?

And why, oh why, don’t dolls have access to a carousel?

They do here.

I’m as horrified as you are. And intrigued. It’s a lot to process. I had a 4 hour drive to Myre-Big Island State Park in Minnesota to think it over.

And here I am.

I’ve added my Minnesota sticker to my map.

Had my fried cheese.

Now, off to bed (this blog took me nearly 5 hours!)

Sweet dreams.

8 thoughts on “Day 4: House on the Rock, WI

  1. I was there, too. I really didn’t like it. Overwhelming and creepy. I liked Taliesin much better. I’m enjoying your posts!

  2. Do you have a book of “Weird Places to Visit in the US”? 🙂 I think it might be hard to top this one. Sweet Dreams?!? I doubt it.

  3. I literally read this after an evening out with friends in which House on the Rock was mentioned. A friend from Wisconsin is heading back for a wedding, and we wondered if HotR was as crazy and terrifying as when you’re under 10 (as we’d been for our visits). Clearly, the answer is YES.

  4. OMG forgot about the Mikado room. And that clown !!!!! So sad the orchestra was under restoration “like most orchestras during the summer season” !!! hahahahhaha… You in the Neptune room, sitting there, overwhelmed beyond measure, pretty much says it all. Glad you lived through it to write this post.

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