A Travelogue with Rick Rose
On Deer Shelter Rock in Wyoming Valley in Iowa County between Spring Green and Dodgeville, WI on Hwy 23 in the state of WI in the Midwest of the United States of America you will find the center of the “Land of Ahhs!” known as the House on the Rock. During the 1940’s, a wild man named Alex Jordan discovered this 60 foot chimney of rock and decided to build a house, but not just any house. As it was being built, passersby were intrigued by its curious look, and Jordan decided to ask for 50 cent donations to have a peak. That was just the beginning. Today, his 14 room masterfully designed house is the original structure of what has become a stunning complex of winding buildings, mysterious exhibits and incredible container gardens with nearly 300 varieties of plants and a picture-perfect Japanese Garden with koi pond and waterfall.
Offering three different self-guided tours at a modest $12.50 each, the best bang for your buck is the “Ultimate Experience” giving you access to the entire Attraction to take in and enjoy in three parts over the course of a year for under $30 for adults, less for seniors like us or little ones. I love it, because as people arrive to see “the House,” there really is no house from the outside. You enter through the new Welcome Center, learn a lot about Jordan by viewing his memorabilia and writings in a tribute area, then begin your wind through this wonderland.
Beyond the Attraction, which I will try to explain next, the “Land of Ahhs!” also includes an Inn, best for family stays, in Dodgeville, and a beautiful Resort with pools, a spa, 27 holes of golf, a pro shop and pub, fine dining and magnificent gardens, nestled in the unglaciated part of the state, near Spring Green. Right up the road is the American Players Theatre, a one of a kind outdoor classic theatre under the stars. Spring Green is the home of Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, with tours available. Smack dab in the middle of October is the Fall Art Tour with artists opening their studio doors in Spring Green, Dodgeville and nearby Mineral Point and Baraboo, home of the Circus World Museum. So, you see there is a place for everyone in this House on the Rock experience.
The House on the Rock itself is, as I describe it, “the world’s largest collection of collection” as Alex Jordan and his successor, Art Donaldson who bought the property in 1988, a year before Jordan passed away, are both major collectors. However, Jordan wanted it to be more than a museum where many of the contents could hold a significant place. So, the House is more of a wild and fantastic imagination trip through his mind than a dusty, lifeless educational venue. Art and his wife who displays the largest collection of Santas each year at the Attraction, along with their daughter, my good, good friend, Sue, continue surprising visitors by honoring Jordan’s dream as they expand and entertain. Jordan, in his own words, is still very present in those decisions but not voting. The highlight is the Infinity Room, the final room of the main House, completed in 1985. It extends 218 feet over the scenic valley and 156 feet above the forests floor with 3,264 windows comprising its walls! What a view! The centerpiece, to me, at the Attraction, is the World’s Largest Carousel, valued at nearly $5 million dollars, and employing someone whose in charge of its 20,000 lights and 182 chandeliers. Interesting fact: of the 269 handcrafted carousel animals on it, not one is a horse! The things you learn at the House on the Rock are astonishing, truly.
Literary cult figure and graphic novelist, Neil Gaiman, whose American Gods opens at the Carousel, was featured guest at a huge Halloween event at the House last year. It is my dream to host a Gay Day at the House on the Rock Attraction, Resort and Inn which will rival anything at Disney, trust me. This place is “the Land of Ahhs!” after all. Oh, my!