House on the Rock

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.

Tracy Garrett
History, Texas, cowboys, horses—these are a few of Tracy’s favorite things. Check out her westerns at www.TracyGarrett.com.

19 Comments

  1. Yes I’ve been there. It’s an amazing creation!

    I have a friend who owns a condo in Sister Bay. It’s always fun to visit and bike through Peninsula State Park, visit Wilson’s Ice Cream Shop in Ephraim and shop in Fish Creek. Did you eat a fish boil dinner? Point Beach State Forest is beautiful too, just north of Two Rivers.

  2. Wow, I had no idea this existed, Tracy. I may make it to northern Wisconsin, but I’d love to see this. Sounds amazing. Thanks for sharing your trip.
    Do you know when it was built or anything else about Mr. Jordan?

  3. Elizabeth, House on the Rock is worth the trip.
    The house was built on Deer Shelter Rock over a lot of years–beginning in 1945–and opened to the public for tours in 1959. Some of the additional buildings were added after Jordan sold the house in 1988

  4. Laurie, Sister Bay is lovely! We stayed in Fish Creek, and went to the Fish Boil at Pelletier’s. Touristy, but fun. 😀

  5. We have not yet been to Wisconsin and it is one my list as soon as we have more free time, retirement is not far away for my DH.
    this is just the sort of place I would be dragging him to. Poor man never knows what sort of very different thing I’ll be planning next. Most of the time he enjoys them (there have been a few duds). This he will like.
    I am going to check for a website and get the information to print out for my trip wish file.

    Thanks so much for the post.

  6. Tracy,

    What a great house! I love visiting unique places like this it really makes the imagination kick in wondering about the person who lived there. Mr. Jordon would have been a very interesting person to visit with. :o)

    –Kirsten

  7. Patricia, it’s http://www.TheHouseOnTheRock.com. And there’s an Inn/Resort that is associated with the attraction that looked very nice when we drove past. Didn’t stop, though.

  8. Kirsten, I absolutely agree. After wandering through the house, I would love to spend a few hours just talking with him. He was either fascinating or crazy. lol

  9. What a unique use of space and material! I’d love to see it sometime. Thanks for the info!

  10. I love reading about unusual homes. House on the Rock sounds fascinating. I hope to visit sometime.

    Hope everyone is having a m’avelous day,

    Cher

  11. Wow, Tracy, that looks simply amazing! I’d love to see it one of these days. If I ever get close to Door County, Wisconsin I’m going to make it a point to check it out. It would be so neat living in a house like that. It definitely engages the inner child in me.

    Wonderful blog!

  12. Hi Tracy,
    We visited the House on the Rock several years ago. I think my favorite part was the Carousel Room. That is a unique and fascinating house!
    Later on that trip we went hiking in a state park that had lots of beautiful waterfalls, and then drove along the shoreline of two of the Great Lakes. Thanks for bringing back some wonderful memories!

  13. Vicki, amazing is the right word. It was so whimsical, so amazingly odd. I loved it.

    Thanks for stopping by, Cher.

  14. Thanks, Linda.

    And, you’re welcome, Judy H. 🙂

  15. Have never heard of this before. Looks like a awesome place to visit.

  16. Fascinating! And a dragon? Isn’t it amazing what imagination can accomplish? I’d love to see it in person, Tracy. Thanks in the meantime for the pictures. oxox

  17. Wow! How interesting!! Would love to see it!

  18. Tracey,

    Love this post and the pictures are so wonderful.

    Walk in harmony,
    Melinda

  19. Tracy, I already checked their site and printed off the pertinent information as well as copying some of the suggestions from this post.
    Thanks.

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