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The House on the Rock Is Wisconsin’s Strangest Museum

The House on the Rock is Wisconsin’s Strangest Museum

Ask someone to describe the House on the Rock in Wisconsin, and they may have trouble putting it into words. Quirky and weird come to mind, and it’s a little creepy, too.

This offbeat and off-the-path attraction has been a popular detour for travelers for more than 60 years.

Tag along as we try to demystify this Midwestern marvel!

Who Built the House on the Rock?

The House on the Rock is the work and legacy of an eccentric named Alex Jordan. He saw a tall, slender sandstone column (known as Deer Shelter Rock) and wanted to live on top of it. Perhaps influenced by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who’s from the same area, Jordan set out to design something different.

And he succeeded in fantastic fashion.

Jordan had a residence in mind, not a museum or tourist attraction. He began construction in 1945 and opened it to the public in 1960 because there was so much interest.

What Makes the House on the Rock So Strange?

The unusual structure is perched precariously on a 60-foot peak, and there are visual wonders inside and out. Jordan’s cramped collection of head-scratching curiosities is baffling and mind-boggling. An oddball array of items strain the senses the moment you enter.

Even the critics, who complain that it’s musty and cluttered, admit to being captivated.

It takes three to four hours to walk the space, and there’s a surprise at every turn. The House on the Rock has three main sections. They are “The Streets of Yesterday,” “The Heritage of the Sea,” and “The Music of Yesterday.” Outside the house sit Japanese-style gardens and an extended boardwalk that leads to the “Infinity Room.”

This structure has more than 3,000 pieces of glass and extends outward more than 218 feet like a gravity-defying artificial ledge. If you’re not terrified of heights, it offers an amazing view of scenic Wyoming Valley, which lies 150 feet below.

A Reclusive, Hermit-Like Artist Built It

The cavernous collection of rooms and corridors stands as a monument to Jordan’s creative imagination. He died in 1989 of a heart attack at the age of 75 and was remembered as a one-of-a-kind visionary.

The fun-loving Jordan had continuously expanded his collections and constantly added new items of intrigue. Before his death, he had sold the place to a like-minded associate named Art Donaldson.

Touring the place today, you may get the feeling that Jordan is lurking in the shadows and enjoying people’s reactions.

It Combines Antiques, Replicas, and Original Art Pieces

Eclectic is another way to try and describe this place. It seems that Jordan’s passions and interests knew no bounds. The unusual and exotic displays run from circus memorabilia and clowns to hundreds of handcrafted dolls.

Replicas of shiny crown jewels and colorful Tiffany lamps share space with rustic antique weapons and rusty suits of armor. And that’s not even scratching the surface.

How big is the world’s largest carousel, and how many horses does it have? Answers: 80 feet wide and none. The House on the Rock says this dazzling indoor attraction has 20,000 lights and 269 animals running counter-clockwise.

Sadly, you can’t hop on the merry-go-round yourself, but look around – the room has some other surprises.

There’s a Lifesize Replica of a Blue Whale

The mammoth room that celebrates the sea has a huge fleet of model ships on display. The ill-fated Titanic serves as a deserving centerpiece. Something larger looms over it – a 200-foot model of a blue whale.

The sculptor captured this monster in the throes of a battle with a giant squid.

How Can You Visit the House on the Rock?

The House on the Rock is right off Highway 23 in southern Wisconsin. In fact, you can see the Infinity Room in the distance if you know where to look. It’s near the tiny town of Spring Green, which is 18 miles from Dodgeville. It’s about an hour’s drive from Madison and three hours from Chicago.

The House on the Rock is open from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily during the summer months. Hours are more limited in the spring and fall and during the holiday season, and the facility shuts down entirely in the winter. On the days that it’s open, guests are admitted until 4 p.m. However, it’s better to arrive much earlier if you want to enjoy a more leisurely visit.

You can stay a while if you want to. The compound has expanded to a hotel, a golf course, a spa, a restaurant, and a pub/grill. All of the attractions are family-friendly. There’s even a kid’s swimming pool with a 45-foot submarine.

Pro Tip: It’s best to check the website for the specific schedule.

How Much Does It Cost to Tour the House on the Rock?

The full-package tour, called the Ultimate Experience, is $29.95 for each adult (18 and over). For seniors (62 and up) and military personnel, it’s $26.95. Admission for children (ages 4-17) is $14.95, and it’s $1 for children 3 and under. Check the website for discounts.

Is the House on the Rock Worth a Visit?

The House on the Rock is for sure one of the oddest attractions in this part of the country. We wouldn’t plan a cross-country trip around the place, but it would be a shame to pass it without stopping.

Life’s just too short not to check out the unusual. And there’s so much to see in and around the House on the Rock. If nothing else, the view from the Infinity Room alone is something you’ll look back on with wonder.

Is it wonderfully weird or too bizarre for words? You be the judge. A tour of the House on the Rock will give you plenty to talk about either way.

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  1. Diana C Ferguson says:

    I have been there twice. It is best described as sensory overload! So much to see; things you do not expect, which makes it so bizarre. I loved it and would go again. The gift shop sells the best fudge and the ice cream sold in the pizza parlor is delicious! Not a great place to take a baby stroller or a walker but only in certain places.