I was watching American Gods when I discovered the House on the Rock. I’ve wanted to visit it ever since that moment. We rerouted our drive home just so I could. Alex Jordan, Jr. built the house as a sanctuary since he loved to picnic in the area near the rock. When you visit House on the Rock there are A LOT of different areas to see. It took us about three hours and we could have spent more time in some areas. You begin by walking through the Alex Jordan Center. We didn’t read every single placard, but we got a good impression of his life.
Basically he built the house because he wanted an area to hang out. He hauled up a good amount of materials on his own, which is pretty crazy. He also built a structure and then took it all down. It was a lot of trial and error and he wasn’t afraid to take everything apart if it wasn’t just what he wanted. Even after he built the house he was still not quite satisfied and ended up building the infinity room and the gate house years later. The house was never supposed to be visited, but so many people stopped by that Jordan started charging 50 cents to see it. It snowballed from there. He started collecting things, got ideas for other things, like the giant carousel, and kept collecting. He didn’t want it to be museum like, so very few things have explanations.
You enter the gate house first. It was very similar to the house. It was all structured in much the same way. I liked all the nooks and crannies. We didn’t see any bedroom areas or bathrooms. Jordan only stayed at the house for four nights in his whole life. He had an apartment in Madison. I guess he was only at the house when he was adding on to it. The infinity room was really cool looking, but it was like walking through a greenhouse. It also bounced a little as you walked, which I found creepy. The house had a lot of fancy Tiffany lamps and more fireplaces.
After touring the house, you enter into the Streets of Yesterday. It’s like walking down a street from the early 1900s. You could look into the store fronts and see how they were back in that time. I should mention that you can buy tokens in different areas of the tour, they are $1 for four tokens. You can use these tokens for various things, some are old fashioned arcade like games, some are mechanical, and a good number are musical.
The next section is Heritage of the Sea. There is a massive whale and squid sculpture, which is about two stories tall. You walk around the sculpture up a ramp and there are nautical display cases on the walls the entire walk. The octopus sculpture at the bottom plays Under the Sea (in an octopus´garden) if you put in a token.
The next area is called Tribute to Nostalgia. There was a mish mash of things here including a restaurant and ice cream shop.
The next section is the Music of Yesterday. There were a TON of music machines. They were all neat to watch because they were automated. Some of them had empty chairs with instruments in them, some had mannequins playing music, and others had organs. My favorite was at the end of the tour and was an entire orchestra of mannequins. We used our last token for that display.
The Spirit of Aviation was a small section. The World’s Largest Indoor Carousel was the most impressive. I stood and watched it go around and looked at all the different hand carved animals. They were all so intricate and beautiful. There is not one horse on that carousel. Instead, Jordan decorated the walls with the horses, which are also hand carved. It seems such a shame that no one can ride the carousel, but it’s like an art exhibit that you don’t want to ruin at the same time.
I didn’t take a bunch of pictures of the organ room because everything in there was so huge that it was hard to transfer to a picture. It makes you feel tiny walking through the giant organs. Halfway through the organ room, you can walk outside to look at the house and infinity room from the outside. It’s difficult to see either through the trees. However, the bathrooms right before you go outside were amazing.
It is about this time that we started to get tired. I loved the dollhouse section because I love looking at the workmanship of all the tiny furniture. I also love houses and these are just a miniature size! We also walked through the circus room, doll carousel, and the galleries (which had displays of guns, swords, Asian art, and other random stuff).
On the way out you go through the carousel room another time and then have a chance to see the Japanese Garden. The entire tour is one way. I’m not sure what you do if you want to exit in the middle of the tour. It seemed like you were stuck. I’m sure if you ask one of the few people who were around the galleries they would be able to guide you out, but it was not apparent walking through. I was disappointed by the gift shop at the end. I wanted a shirt to commemorate our visit, but there were not many options.
The whole experience was not what I expected. There were so many more things there than I imagined. There were some items that had me shaking my head and others amazed me. It was totally worth the side trip to see it all. I’m glad we set aside enough time to not feel rushed. If you like unusual things, this is for you.