The other choice for the day was to see Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin. I was interested in that too, but The House on the Rock was my first choice. That's how I rock 'n' roll.
Bob, however, was of the opposite opinion. He really wanted to see Taliesin and do the tour there. I knew he wasn't into the weird stuff he would see at The House on the Rock.
|Planters along the entrance drive|
|Planters on the grounds of The House on the Rock|
|Love the dragon on top|
Both of us went to see houses designed by ego-centric men who lived within a few miles of each other. Curiouser and curiouser. And I was about to go down the rabbit hole.
We started in the Visitor Center. I bought the combination ticket ($28.50) which covered all three sections of The House on the Rock. In the Visitor Center, I used the Women's restroom. Even the restrooms are decorated! The Women's restroom was decorated with dolls and a Christmas display.
|Women's restroom (Erte? Um...maybe)|
To say Alex Jordan had an over-active imagination would be an understatement. As a young boy, he was a handful, always on the go. Today we'd probably say he had ADHD. He finished high school and went on to college, but was too busy having fun to finish. In life, he drifted, not knowing what to do. For a while, he worked in construction for his father. That is where he learned how to build.
Starting in 1945, he would go picnicking on Deer Shelter Rock. He fell in love with the beauty and nature of the spot on the rock and returned many times. He paid the farmer who owned the property $10 to "lease" this picnic spot. This, he decided, was where he would build his dream house. His parents helped him buy 240 acres and his life's purpose took shape. He would build his private weekend get-away here and have this home conform to the shape of the chimney rock it was built upon.
At first, he built what he called the "shack." He hated the shack and tore it down, replacing it with a "Studio." He hauled rocks from a local quarry, strapped to his back, and climbed the rock with them. He built outward and downward from the Studio, eventually creating 13 rooms around Deer Shelter Rock. Trees growing on the rock were left undisturbed and he built his house around them, so that they pass through floors and roofs as required.
Alex Jordan was 6'4" tall, but his house has ceilings that are about 5' 10" tall. Remember the rabbit hole I mentioned earlier? It was time to enter Wonderland. If you are claustrophobic or don't like dark, confined spaces, this place is probably not for you. It is quite dim throughout.
|Small sitting area with large fireplace.|
|Chimney Rock wall on left, house wall on right.|
|Another intimate sitting area with fireplace|
|Alex loved all things Oriental.|
|Yet another sitting area.|
His parents wanted him to open the house to tours, but Alex and his girlfriend were very private people. They balked at the suggestion. However, since his parents bought the property, they insisted and Alex reluctantly agreed.
With the added income, he was able to start collections, but then he needed somewhere to put everything. Thus, he added the Organ Room, the Carousel Room and the Old Mill.
Alex had a wide scope of interests. He collected books and music all his life. His curiosity was boundless and his voracious reading made him conversant in many fields. His 38 magazine subscriptions ranged from National Geographic to The Smithsonian, National Lampoon, and Mad Magazine. He loved The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and The Art of War. Reading fueled his imagination even more.
Everywhere he went, he carried a notebook where he made drawings and put in ideas. Those ideas would eventually translate into new spaces for his house. He would show the builders his plans and explain how he wanted a room to look. If, in the process of building, the room didn't look like he planned, he would revise his plan and re-do the room accordingly.
The vision for an Infinity Room was in his notebook for 40 years. He finally talked to a builder about making the Infinity Room a reality. The builder told him he could do it if he made it 164' long. Alex was adamant it had to be 200' long to make the room look like it reached to infinity. The builder was able to help him make it a reality.
|The Infinity Room|
In the 1960s a guest who visited the House sent a note to Alex telling him how much he enjoyed his visit. In the note, he asked Alex if he had ever heard of a poem called "Vagabond's House" by Don Blanding. Alex was so taken with the poem, he copied it out in longhand. Here is an excerpt from the poem:
When I have a house ... as I sometime mayI can see why Alex Jordan loved this poem...it epitomized his feelings about his house.
I'll suit my dream in every way
It won't be correct or in period style
But oh, I've thought for a long, long while
Of all the corners and all the nooks,
Of all the bookshelves and all the books
The sheepskin divan, the deep soft chairs
And the Chinese rug at the foot of the stairs
(it's an old, old rug from far Chow Wan
that a Chinese princess once walked on).
My house will stand on a rock on a hill
Overlooking a valley deep and still
With big tall pines on guard nearby
Where the birds can sing and the storm wind cry
A bridge and a stair with lazy curves
Will lead to a door where a great gong serves
As a knocker there like a vibrant drum
to let me know that a friend has come
and the door will squeak as I swing it wide
to welcome you to the cheer inside.
What I found very interesting was Alex's purpose in building such a unique structure and putting huge collections into it. Alex loved to visit museums, but found them "tedious." He didn't want any of his collection to be stuffy. He often said of his guests, "Don't educate them--entertain them." His only purpose was to bring pleasure, inspire awe, and spark curiosity. Those who look for an explanation have it all wrong--it's about a mood.
Here, then, are my pictorial impressions from The House on the Rock...
|Outdoor Chinese garden|
|Carousel cat high on a wall|
|Hotei (Rub his belly for good luck...I did)|
|Door to enter The Old Mill (love the blue light!)|
|The Old Mill Women's restroom|
|The Streets of Yesterday|
|Fire Station No. 1 (Streets of Yesterday)|
|Doll Shop (Streets of Yesterday)|
|Lamp (Streets of Yesterday)|
|Gladiator Calliope (Music of Yesterday)|
|Many ivory pieces (from before ban on importing ivory)|
|I was able to capture part of the sea creature's mouth|
|A decorated room with unique piano|
|Collection of masks|
|Burma Shave signs|
|The Mikado Room complete with music|
All the horses Alex Jordan collected for the Grand Carousel now hang on walls throughout the house.
Here are my physical impressions of The House on the Rock:
- I loved the Alex Jordan, Jr., Center (museum about the man who created this eclectic mish-mash). There was so much information to absorb.
- The magnitude of everything combined is mind-boggling. We're talking collections ranging from dolls, to weapons, to armor, to dollhouses, to music machines, to Asian artifacts, to ivory, to organs, to model ships--something for everyone.
- It imparts a sense of wonder because of the sheer scope of the project
- It is dimly lit which makes it hard to see things
- Most of the collection is not labeled.
- Not all pieces are authentic. There are many things that were created on site or are reproductions.
- The floor is not level, so you need to be careful when walking around, especially because it is not well lit.
- You also have to watch your head in the house portion as the rooms have low ceilings.
- The place needs to be cleaned regularly. Cobwebs hang from some of the light fixtures. The dollhouses have dead bugs, mouse droppings and dirt in them.
- Overall, though, I found it fascinating.
From Spring Green, we drove north to Wisconsin Dells. Our goal was to either (1) take a boat ride to see The Dells, or (2) find a park or trails to walk to see The Dells. Well, the boat rides all seemed to be closed for the season. We drove through town twice looking for a boat ride to take us out. There was no Visitor Center to be found or we would have asked where we could go to see The Dells, a nature trail or something. We found a state park just outside of town but it, too, was closed. Guess it was time to high-tail it back to Derge County Park and the 5th wheel.
To end, here are some quotes that were found on walls and tables in Inspiration Point, one of the snack bars at The House on the Rock.
"Life is full of obstacle illusions." ~ George FrazierTravel Bug out. [As you can tell, I'm a few days behind. We have been busy and I just haven't had time to write. I hope to catch up more tomorrow.]
"Live out your imagination, not your history." ~ Steven Covey
"Time you enjoyed wasting is not wasted time." ~ T.S. Eliot
"Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties." ~George Frazier