The House on the Rock, originally opened in 1959, is a complex of architecturally unique rooms, streets, gardens and shops designed by Alex Jordan, Jr. It is located north of Dodgeville, a city in Iowa County, south of Spring Green, Wisconsin and is a regional tourist attraction.
Both of Jordan's biographers relate a story told by Sid Boyum, which places the inspiration for the house in a meeting between Alex Jordan, Jr. and Frank Lloyd Wright, at some unspecified time between 1914 and 1923. Jordan Sr. drove with Boyum to Taliesin to show Wright the plans for a building, the Villa Maria in Madison. Jordan worshipped the famous architect and hoped for his approval. Wright looked at the plans and told Jordan: "I wouldn't hire you to design a cheese crate or a chicken coop.
You're not capable." Fuming, on the drive back on Highway 23, Jordan pointed to a spire of rock and told Boyum: "I'm going to put up a Japanese house on one of those pinnacle rocks and advertise it." Balousek says Wright "apparently didn't forget the incident", noting that Wright "complained publicly to Iowa County officials about the house the Jordans were building" and bought a nearby piece of property, "perhaps as a way to get back at Jordan."
Layout and Attractions:
The "house" itself is atop Deer Shelter Rock, a column of rock approximately 60 feet (18 m), 70 feet (21 m) by 200 feet (61 m) on the top, which stands in a forest nearby. Additions were made to the original structure and other buildings added over the course of several decades. The complex now features "The Streets of Yesterday", a re-creation of an early twentieth century American town; "The Heritage of the Sea", featuring nautical exhibits and a 200-foot model (61 m) of a fanciful whale-like sea creature; "The Music of Yesterday", a huge collection of automatic music machines; and what the management bills as "the world's largest indoor carousel", among other attractions.
During the winter, the attraction features a Christmas theme, with decorations and a large collection of Santa Claus figures. Many of the bathrooms are decorated with strange objects, including mannequins, flowers, and preserved animals. The earlier structures, namely the House on the Rock itself, the Gate House, and the Mill House, are reminiscent of the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, though much less coherently designed than is characteristic of Wright, given its patchwork of external structures and interior spaces. According to a likely apocryphal story, the building actually began partly to spite the master architect, who ran his Taliesin communal school near Spring Green. These early structures feature exposed stone, low ceilings, dark woodwork, and antiques on display.