Hey Jim, go to Hell!!! Jim and I enter part of House on the Rock
Jim at House on the Rock

Several years ago Jim and I visited Alex Jordan’s infamous House on the Rock, in Spring Green, Wisconsin. I’ve had the photos I took—during our endless, day-long walk through the structure’s dreamy, fluctuating, warrenlike corridors—for a long time, but never put them up on my site because nine-out-of-ten of them are too dark and blurry (I’m no wizard when it comes to dark settings and digital cameras). Well, I finally weeded through them all and picked out the ones that came out okay enough, and put them in a 66-photo Flickr set.

I kept the photos in the order I took them while walking through the house, so you can kind of know what to expect if you visit the place. In addition to the many omitted fuzzy photos, this set ends up covering only about 10% (or so) of the house itself as it was December and 1/3 of the place is shut down in winter because it’s too expensive to heat. Still, these should give you a colorful taste.

In case you’ve never heard of House on the Rock, it’s the kind of thing that you would have seen on That’s Incredible!, if you’re old enough to remember that television show. The enormous home was begun by an eccentric, enterprising, obsessive man named Alex Jordan in the 1940s. It started as a Japanese-style structure sitting on the edge of a large precipice (it was actually built by him as revenge for being scorned by Frank Lloyd Wright). Jordan liked to impress, had lots of money, and was also a collector of things from all over the world (big things…like plus-size taxidermy, whole warehouses full of discarded pipe organs, giant carousels, and animatronic angel choruses, etc.) and he just started building his maze-like home bigger and bigger and bigger, to contain everything. Soon, whole full-scale city streets (complete with real shops and vehicles) began to appear inside the house itself, and more stuff like that, and eventually the structure became THE BEAST of all architecture. It was later taken over by his son, who continued the madness. Anyway, his family owns it now (or something like that) and it’s an attraction you can go see. Highly, highly recommended. It’s the realization of what, as a child, you dreamed, fantasized…and hoped the inside of Wonka’s factory must have looked like after seeing Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971 version) for the first time, just much, much darker.

Alex Jordan liked animatronics, and his collections are robotically put to work in many of the rooms, which come alive when you put little tokens into these little slots (some just do it by themselves). We found the whole place mind-blowing. It’s moderately priced and well, well worth it. Bring your walking shoes, and show up mid-morning so you don’t miss anything and can really take your time browsing. There’s no way to see it all in one visit. Like I said, we went during the winter when 1/3 of the place is shut down because it’s so expensive to heat—so you might wanna visit in the spring or early fall (hmmm…I wonder if it’s an oven in the summer?). Anyway, The House on the Rock has been covered extensively on the web already: here’s the thorough Wikipedia entry, and you can find some great galleries and information here, here, here, here and here. But I hope my Flickr photo set can at least offer a few unique glimpses for those that can’t visit the actual place because they live in an iron lung or something like that.