These days, entertainment is everywhere. I could list a plethora of examples, but I’m sure you’re well aware of the world around you. In the tourism sphere, with all those who pay attention to trends and markets, It’s hard to find a place that is truly unique. You know, if its popular and people dig it, variations of the new craze start popping up. Here in Wisconsin, cheese shops and breweries would be a prime example of that; I’ve blogged about a few.
On Friday, I really believe I found something totally novel. As I perused this week’s topic, I realized that trying to find logic and rationale inside this place was pointless. It’s the first time that I left an attraction and turned to Heidi, with a satisfied but perplexed expression, and said, “I don’t know how I’m going to describe this.” It strikes me, basically, as if the late Alex Jordan Jr. found anything, and everything, that might stir a fanciful emotion and shoved it in one location.
The attraction’s inception is as enigmatic, in my mind, as the right adjective to label the anomaly. According to a man who knew Jordan, Alex’s quest to build a structure atop a column of rock was an attempt to smite famed local architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The validity of that claim has been discredited by the management of this tourist destination. They claim that Jordan wanted to create a retreat for himself, as later he began accepting 50 cents a head for people to see his creation. What those people came to see in 1960 became known as ‘ The House on the Rock’.
I stroll into a modern welcome center. It comes complete with a gift shop, trickling water fountains and possibly the coolest bathrooms I have ever used.
We learn that the tour is broken into three parts: the house, Yesterday Street and a final portion. We pay our $30.00 per person for entrance, recieve four tokens each for the coin operated amusements and mosey on towards the Asian gardens.
The Gardens were an addition that was finished in the last decade. It’s probably the biggest change at ‘The House on the Rock’ since Alexander Jordan’s passing in 1989. I saunter around, check out the gobies in the pond and listen to the peaceful sounds of the waterfalls. The management claims Jordan would have approved of the gardens, being that his house was meant to be of Asian design. I don’t know about Alex Jordan, but I definitely like it.
After the gardens, we find ourselves in the Alex Jordan center. This area, also an addition after Jordan’s passing, tells of the man and his creation in which we are about to experience. We learn about this eccentric man who was an imposing 6’4″ but created a house with low ceilings. In order for him to walk through, he would have hunched over in certain spots.
Finally, we make it to the house. The floors are worn and the furniture is old and outdated. None the less, it’s cool in a weird boys clubhouse kind of way.
It’s pretty much piecemealed together. Sofas and chairs appear in random alcoves along the way and some walls are accented with stain glass windows. In places, cool forties stained glass lighting illuminates the rather gloomy halls. Limestone slabs serve as the material for the walls as trees sometimes sprout from the floor and provide interior décor.
I feel I’m walking the corridors of a once abandoned medieval castle, with Asian undertones, renovated during the ‘60’s.
Near the house tour’s end, we find the infinity room. The Infinity room protrudes from the landscape, like a giant spear tip, 218 feet from a natural ledge. This oddity of over 3,000 small windows stretches out over the tree tops with no supports underneath the structure. A steel truss anchored in concrete keeps the room suspended in air. Heidi’s having a blast and taking pictures. I, on the other hand, feel the slightest bounce when we approach the tip. Visions of the room crashing towards the earth like a giant lawn dart race through my head…I’m out.
We’re finished with the house and it’s on to Yesterday street, which is basically a cool rendition of an early 20th century main street. I’ve seen things like this before in Museums, as this portion of the tour is much like a poorly lit museum. There are a wide array of eclectic collections on hand. Name it and this section has it, from antique cars to clocks. Unlike a museum, however, there are no descriptive placards to explain what we are viewing.
I must also mention that some of the exhibits are reproductions, although others are authentic. So, unless you’re a genius in the world of antiques, many times its a mystery as to what you’re looking at. What definitely is authentic, and continues to entertain us through parts two and three, are the antique coin operated amusements. This place has a ton of them.
From simple stage shows to love testing, these machines bring to light a form of entertainment before the use of digital electronics. Some are fun, others pretty creepy. As a matter of fact, there is a good many things that are creepy here.
As we close towards the end of section two, we discover an enormous sea creature sculpture, which is the largest statue I’ve come across. It looms over a sizable room of exhibits. There is also a small little eatery inside this part of the museum…building…storage shed…I’m not sure what to call it.
Finally, we close in on the last part of our tour. Here, before we enter the mouth of a giant beast, an enormous carousel spins before our eyes. Its lighting and size mesmerizes my senses, as wooden angels and horses suspended above strike a vibe that teeters between fantasy and nightmare.
The third section is a collection, of again, anything one can imagine. From brew kettles to steam engines and enormous mechanical music makers to intricate doll houses, this place shows off compelling stuff. We find another eatery, take one more look at the carousel and are finally to the exit. It was pretty overwhelming. We literally spent three and a half hours here, being no way I could remember everything.
As I drive home, winding through hills of the drift less area, I decide that ‘a splendid variation of crazy’ could best describe the ‘House on the Rock’ . After all, Alex Jordan was said to be a complicated man by those who knew him best. I figure a complicated man, in today’s world, is the result of some kind of psychological disorder. And that’s fine by me because if everyone in the world was completely sane, no one would ever build a house on a rock.