our homecoming tradition: Wisconsin edition

rosewood window coverings

despite being a lifelong Wisconsin resident, until October, I’d never been to the House on the Rock — arguably one of the craziest, tourist-trapiest places in all of Wisconsin. I’d heard plenty about it, and of the enormous, ornate carousel (most notably in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods) but I don’t know if anything can prepare you for the site.

stovetop in the House portion

the structure started as a 14-room house, built by Alex Jordan, on Deer Shelter Rock in the Wyoming Valley between Spring Green and Dodgeville. personally, I was most impressed with the original building, which includes the House, the Gate House, and the Mill House, which are reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright’s style. some claim Jordan began his project to thumb his nose at Wright, as Taliesin is only a few miles away. in this section of the site, the architecture takes as much precedence as the sometimes fascinating, sometimes flabbergasting, sometimes disturbing knickknacks.

in the 1920s, Jordan visited a scenic picnic spot frequented by locals and, ownership and potential hardship be damned, vowed to build a “Japanese-style” house on the Rock. took him another 25 years to make a start and, despite the time, didn’t secure rights from the farmer who owned the land to build anything there. one account claims that Jordan hired drunks and bums from Madison to help blast the Rock level, paying them with booze or checks.

chandelier in the Organ Room

construction continued throughout the twentieth century (and up to the present day). Jordan quickly realized people would pay to come and wander through the House to see it and the oddments that filled it. in addition to the House, Jordan and his successors have added the “Streets of Yesterday” (influenced by the “Streets of Old Milwaukee” seen at the Milwaukee Public Museum. do those old-time-y reconstructions always have to be so dark? is it perpetually evening in the past?), the Heritage of the Sea building (which features a giant whale with teeth being attacked by a kraken), the Carousel Room, an Organ Room …. and so much other stuff. fake Crown Jewels; a mannequin orchestra; doll houses; weaponry; and more and more and more. honestly can’t say much about the third portion of the tour; with one exception we were all way too hungry to take in more than the enormity of the Organ in the first segment. apparently the pipes came from an old waterworks plant in Madison. oh, and the taxidermy in the men’s bathroom. by the last leg we were all but running for the door and anywhere for lunch in Dodgeville.

to the end of the Infinity Room

really, the only addition since the original construction to impress me was the Infinity Room, which juts out from 218 feet the original House and over the Rock. there are over 3,000 tiny windows. with the leaves just beginning to turn in mid-October, it was a pretty sweet view over the valley.

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Author: Erica

born in the midwest with wandering feet.