Tuesday (7/11) we had plans to get around a little early and be in the truck heading to The House on the Rock by 8AM, and we were. It is located 47 miles from our campsite but that’s ok because all 47 miles are on county roads that just weave their way through lush green farmland filled with corn and bean fields and pastureland mainly. And of course lead us by numerous farmhouses and barns ranging from old to just sort of old. We just love the scenery and sense of calm we get driving the backroads like this, void of all the pressures of big cities.
The drive did of course take us through a few little towns but we are talking towns with populations of 200 to maybe a couple thousand and most of them didn’t even have a stoplight. It took me back to my childhood growing up on a farm back in Iowa.
We rolled into the Parking lot of the House on the Rock at 9am, right when they open the doors hoping to beat any crowds and it worked perfectly, I think there were only 3 other cars in the lot at that time and no line at the ticket booth and we strolled freely with no one around for the longest time even though it certainly got busier as the day went on, but not horribly. But by the time we walked out to the truck after our tour the lobby was packed and the parking lot was full.
The House on the Rock began in 1945 when a man named Alex Jordan had vision to build an aw-inspiring retreat. A retreat that turned out to be on steroids! We would almost call it more of a museum than anything else.
It went FAR beyond the House and he started collecting and built on a massive scale. In the end he had created the world-renowned attraction known as The House on the Rock that actually opened to the public in 1959.
Ok, first things first, there are 3 sections to the House on the Rock and you can pick just how much you want to see of it. For $14.95 each (adult) you can tour section 1 which includes the Asian Garden, the Alex Jordan Center and Sculpture Pavilion, the Gate House and the Original House and the Infinity Room.
OR for $24.95 (adult) you can tour section 1 &2 which includes of course all of section 1 AND includes the Mill House, Streets of Yesterday, Heritage of the Sea, and Tribute to Nostalgia, Music of Yesterday, Spirit of Aviation and the Carousel.
Or you can do the Ultimate Experience for $29.95 (per adult) which includes section 1 & 2 plus section 3 that includes the Carousel, the Organ Room, the Doll House Room, the Circus Room, the Galleries, the Doll Carousel Room and the Japanese Garden. We opted for the Ultimate Experience.
Let us say at this point that on the House on the Rock web site AND on Trip Advisor you will read to allow 3 hours to tour all 3 sections but it took us 6, yes 6 hours and we still feel we could have gone slower to take in even more but my visual and mental sensories were on complete overload by the time we reached section 3 and section 3 just blew our minds completely.
OK, that’s about as far as I can go and not say that I have given some thought to just how I could write this update and be true to what this place is and I don’t think I can do it!!!
It’s called The House on the Rock but it’s not a house that you walk up to the front door, turn the knob and walk into. In fact I wasn’t completely sure just where the house actually started, we just all of a sudden realized, OH here is a kitchen “sort of” and OH here is a living room and another sitting area and OH I’m not sure just what the hell this is and OH here is a stairway and here is another and her is another and OH I guess we are out of the house now. Oh and it never really was a house because Alex (the creator) never lived there
The ceilings were low which is strange because the Alex was 6’2” tall and the lighting was very low so between it being rather tight quarters and the low lighting picture taking is a nightmare for amateurs so we apologize for that.
Then there is the collection’s room. We would call it a museum except even though there are some museum pieces they are mixed in with tons of other things. It seems he wasn’t content with just a couple pieces in a category like “spittoons”, he needed 50.
Or he wasn’t happy with just 2 or 3 “Doll Houses”, he needed over 200!!
I don’t care if you are into Doll Houses or not but as a guy I couldn’t help appreciate the detail in all of the displays.
The same thing held true with collections of cameras, lighters, dolls, dueling pistols, scrimshaw items, model boats, coin banks, puppets, carrousel horses, old glass ware, suits of armor, and on and on and on. There is no way in the world to take it all in and or even talk about it all. It’s mind boggling.
It’s pretty common knowledge that not everything sitting around are originals and it’s well known that many things were in fact fabricated right on the grounds but still it’s just crazy to imagine what went into creating this place.
And then there are the music machines, all types of them, big & small but the most interesting are the ones that are huge, I’m talking 25 or 30’ wide and bend your head back to see the top big.
It appears that most of them are ran by an intricate pneumatic system but unfortunately there are a few that are not working at 100%. By that I mean some of the instruments just are not working in the display or maybe one drumstick is working and it was apparent that the other used to by the markings on the drum head but isn’t any longer. And there are some displays that just don’t work period.
Unfortunately from what we have read this is becoming more and more of a problem so it is possible that some day in the future this place could fall into a heap of unrepaired relics. That would be a shame.
And then of course there is (what was the largest indoor carousel in the world in 1981) 269 carousel animals, 182 chandeliers, over 20,000 lights, and hundreds of mannequin angels hanging from the ceiling. It’s just crazy to sit in the carousel room and watch it and take in all the other sites in that room. Cirque du Soleil must have drooled over this thing if he ever saw it!!
Ok look, we could go on and on about this place but at this point we are 3 or 4 updates behind and it’s mainly because I was trying to wrap my head around this one stupid update so I’m just going to stop here, let it go and finish up.
Obviously we were pretty enamored with the place and after spending 6 hours touring we still feel if we were to go back again there is no doubt we would see much more that we just missed.
We even started researching more online about Alex and the House on the Rock after the tour and learned even more, but that’s not all that uncommon for us to do after touring a place. But if you are at all interested it’s obviously pretty easy to Google the place or check out the numerous videos on YouTube. And if you find yourself in the area by all means check it out.
And again, sorry for the very poor pictures, I think we need to take a class.
For the record we had another day of touring from here to report on and we have moved in to Milwaukee and have toured the Harley Davidson Museum and the Pabst Mansion plus some driving tours that we need to do updates on so stay tuned.