Just north of Dodgeville, Wisconsin, atop a rocky bluff with a view of a tree-filled valley, sits an architectural marvel of unique rooms, streets, gardens and shops called “House on the Rock.” Envisioned, designed and mostly built by architect Alex Jordan Jr., this house is an amazing combination of talent and whimsy. Built, literally, into the rock, with trees in many places growing through the floor and ceiling the rooms wind around the natural landscape, creating wonderful vistas and cozy, cushioned nooks just begging for someone to build a fire and snuggle in with a good book.
The house isn’t one structure. It’s a complex of buildings surrounded by gardens and forest, including the Gate House, the Organ Room, the Doll House Room, and the world’s largest indoor carousel, which boasts 269 handcrafted animals, 20,000 lights and 182 chandeliers. The most incredible (and mildly unsettling) space is the Infinity Room, a steel and glass “needle” that extends 218 feet out over the scenic valley and 156 feet above the forest floor, with 3,264 windows overlooking the valley. More than 140 of those 156 feet are unsupported, hanging in mid-air.
My husband and I concluded our recent vacation to beautiful Door County, Wisconsin, with a side trip to House on the Rock. My dh had been many years ago, but this was a new destination for me. Based on half-remembered reminiscences about the place, and a short piece on the History Channel or Discovery Channel, I expected a grand house with sweeping rooms and awe-inspiring views. Instead I was completely charmed by low ceilings with natural rock walls, the glow of dozens of tiffany-style lamps, and tiny spaces crammed full of art and books and thousands of whimsical creatures either made by Mr. Jordan or commissioned by him to fill a particular spot in the house. All the while we were walking through the structure, I kept repeating ‘I’d love to curl up right there with a book’ or ‘don’t you just want to settle in and talk or debate with friends?’
By all accounts, Mr. Jordan loved to do just that. He enjoyed company and hosted many parties.
I think my favorite spot was the room where a small organ, a harp and a piano were crowded together and overshadowed by a great winged dragon.
If you haven’t seen this delightful architectural marvel, add it to your bucket list. I will definitely be going back.