The House on the Rock, Alex Jordan's marvel
Looking for something to do this summer? Anxious to see a new and exciting place? Take a tour of one of the most amazing buildings in the world, one of the most unique pieces of architecture you’ll ever see: The House on the Rock.
Engineered and mostly build by a single man, Alex Jordan, The House on the Rock is a marvel of human adventure. Built around and on top of a solid rock, the House is, today, one of the gem of the state of Wisconsin.
Here is the story
At the beginning it was just a big rock where people from and around Spring Green, Wisconsin knew as Deer Shelter Rock. It was a 60 feet rock over the beautiful Wyoming Valley, a common place for locals to get together and barbecue. And it would have stayed that way if not for this man, Alex Jordan. He had visited the place as a child and had dremt to build a house on top of it.
The rock, that stands 450 above Wyoming Valley and measuring 70 by 200 feet across the top, is a unique geological formation where young Alex would often return for a picnic and look out to the Baraboo Bluffs that could be seen in clear days.
Turned down by the army and working at his father’s real estate company, Jordan started the construction on the Rock all by himself, around 1945, hauling heavy construction materials, to the top.
For few year all the materials - timber, rock cement sand and glass - had to be carried by back up to the top. When in 1952 the electricity came to the area, he installed an electric hoist.
Only in 1953, after parts of the House were build, Jordan bother to ask the owners of the land permission to build so he signed a lease agreement, followed, in 1956 by the purchase of the land.
For many year, he worked alone, helped in some occasion by friends who happened to visit him, attracted by the novelty of the project. It wasn't until 1957 that Jordan hired his first employee, Don Martin, that proved to be a loyal partner and a master mason, being responsible for lots of stonework on the house.
As the house grew bigger, so the fame. Often, people from around, or complete strangers that happened to be on the road, would stop by and ask permission to visit the House. Jordan never said no. This early visitors would climb the stone steps to the top and would be amazed by the work that had been put in, as well as the view that laid in front of their eyes. They would spread the word among their friends. So, the people demanding to see the house grew year after year.
In 1959 a Wisconsin reporter for Capital Time did a story on what came to be known around as The House on the Rock, and thus, word spread even further. In the summer of 1960 Jordan decided to open the House to visitors and charge them $.50 for the visit. And it seemed the they paid gladly because the flow of visitors never stopped. More, it grew stronger over the years.
The opening of the House didn't stopped Jordan from improving, extending and adding to the House. He kept building new and exciting addition, and more, he became a big collector that would buy items from all over the world and display them in the House. By his death in November of 1989, the majority of the visiting complex as we can see it now, was already in place.
The Tour includes many wonderful buildings, gardens and other objectives.
When you go to visit the House you will be amazed and a little lost in its immensity and layout, for Jordan’s vision kept changing and expanding. At first it was just a room on the rock but then he added another, and another, and so his masterpiece grew to what is called today The House on the Rock.
The complete tour includes:
The House On the Rock - build on and around a rock at 60 feet high, open for visiting since 1960.
The Infinity Room - that is part of the House on the Rock, a very long and narrow addition to the house that sticks out 218 feet over the valley below and raises 156 above the forest floor. From the outside looks like a broken bridge still hanging out in the air.
The Gate House - this part was Jordan’s favorite, and marks the entrance in the whole complex. It’s kitchen looked to me like the board of a spaceship. There is also the Gatehouse Ensemble where musical instruments, assembled into a chamber orchestra greet visitors by playing on their own.
The Streets of Yesterday - a little shopping area designed to resemble an old american town, with authentic antique artifacts meant to recreate a lifestyle long forgotten. When I visited the House this part of the complex was closed, the brochure stating that it would open in october, just in time for Halloween.
The Carousel - as a matter of fact, the world largest carousel, 80 feet across, 35 feet tall, 7 concentric ranks with 269 handcrafted animals none of which is a horse. It stands under 20,000 lights in 182 chandeliers. The planning and construction of the Carousel took ten years.
The Circus Building - this is a place where alex Jordan collected over one million pieces of miniature circuses, the world’s largest collection of such pieces. You’ll find the whole ambient from parade wagons and menageries to ringmasters, gymnasts and clowns. And as to top all the excitement, the buildings hosts a real size pyramid of elephants.
The Organ Room - a huge ensemble displaying three organs, their consoles, pipes, chimes and drums. There can be seen a giant tree made entirely out of drums.
The Gardens - as you stroll from one building to another you’ll pass by these marvelous gardens that display over 100,000 plants, in containers, flower beds or landscaped. This garden assembly, that include a Japanese and an Asiatic garden, is regarded as the largest container garden in the Midwest.
The House on the Rock is a such an unique complex that it can hardly be described. When my family and me visited the House it was early June and there were lots of visitors around. It was a rainy day and that was one of the reason we couldn't visit everything there was too be seen. Another reason was that we were poorly prepared, with little time to spend. So, do better than me. Reserve yourself the least one day to visit all the places and you will never forget this wonderful experience.
© 2013 cameciob
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