This gem along Wisconsin’s Highway 23 is eclectic, strange… and awesome
In a beautiful vista overlooking the Wyoming Valley just south of Spring Green, Wisconsin, you’ll find a Japanese-influenced house anchoring a complex of buildings that compose one of the wildest, kitschiest, unique attractions in existence. Spawned by aspiring architect Alex Jordan Jr., House on the Rock originally opened in 1959 and continues to see add-ons to this very day.
The Legend Says…
According to legend Alex Jordan Sr. met with Frank Lloyd Wright, whom he idolized, about a project in Madison. Supposedly Wright looked at Jordan’s plans and replied “I wouldn’t hire you to design a cheese crate or a chicken coop. You’re not capable.” On the drive home, Jordan was fuming and along Highway 23 pointed to a spire of rock and told artist Sid Boyum, who had also attended the meeting, “I’m going to put up a Japanese house on one of those pinnacle rocks and advertise it.” Wright’s primary home, Taliesin, was just a few miles north. Alex Jordan Jr. carried out plans on behalf of his father in some form of revenge.
The House on the Rock People Say…
This story – while intriguing – is false, according to those at House on the Rock. Boyum, who has a good friend of Alex Jordan Sr. and was known for spinning stories. One theory is he came up with the story to help Jordan promote House on the Rock during its planning and construction stages, much of which was carried out by Alex Jordan Jr. Boyum indeed had won the title of “World Champion Liar” in the annual Burlington Liars Club national competition in 1976, though for a different tale. You can find more on that story here.
Either way, House on the Rock was built upon Deer Shelter Rock, which towers 200 feet over the Wyoming Valley below. The original House on the Rock along with some adjacent buildings like the Gate Hose and the Mill House reflect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie Style architecture. The Japanese-style koi ponds in the outdoor gardens surrounded by these buildings make for a pleasant place to walk amidst horticultural splendor – weather permitting.
Upon entry, the House on the Rock Visitor Center is where you pay admission and get some info materials if you’d like. From there you proceed to the Alex Jordan Exhibit, which provides more background on the entire complex and preps you for what lies ahead.
To Infinity and Beyond
One of the most distinctive features at House on the Rock is the Infinity Room, an increasingly narrowing room that extends out 218 feet over the floor of the Wyoming Valley. Over 3,200 glass windows offer views out – and in some cases, down to the tree tops. Some windows become mirrors, thus given the sensation that room extends out “to infinity.”
The Infinity Room is constructed with a counterbalance composing 105 yards of concrete, which allows the final 140 feet of the room to extend without supports from below. On a windy day, expect some movement!
Over the years, more buildings were added to House on the Rock to create a truly dizzying array of options to explore. The “Streets of Yesterday” exhibits recreates an American downtown harkening back over 100 years ago. A nautical exhibit called “The Heritage of the Sea” includes a sprawling 200-foot whale (not real, of course) hovering from the ceiling and a model of the Delta Queen, a real Mississippi River steamboat.
Part-charming, part creepy automatic music machines click, clack, clang, and chime with the “Music of Yesterday” exhibit, which leads you to the “World’s Largest Carousel,” which includes 269 carousel animals, 182 chandeliers, over 20,000 lights, and hundreds of mannequin angels, all moving round and round.
House on the Rock gets into the holiday spirit in November and December, diving into the Christmas themes with decorations, a variety of Santa Claus figures, and – in the true spirit of this place – kitschy or downright weird things like mannequins in some of the bathrooms, preserved animals through the complex, and more. You never know what you’ll find here.
House on the Rock Hours & Admission
Spring hours at House on the Rock (through May 15th) are 9am – 5pm Thursdays through Mondays, closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. The last admission for the Ultimate Experience is at 3pm; last regular admission is 4pm. The average visit lasts about three hours.
Summer hours (May 16th – September 25th) are 9am – 5pm seven days a week. Fall hours (September 26th – November 13th) are 9am – 5pm, Thursday through Monday, closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Christmas season hours (November 17th – January 1st, 2023) are 9am – 5pm Thursday through Monday, closed on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.
Advance purchase tickets are $28.95 for adults 18 and up, $15.95 for kids ages 7-17, and $2.95 for children age 6 and under. These can be purchased online and you will have a confirmation number to pick them up at Will Call in the Visitors Center. Please note House on the Rock has no public wi-fi and cell service may be limited, so having that confirmation number is important!
Other packages, including for Christmas and their 60th Anniversary Admission Packages, are also available.
House on the Rock also has a nearby resort where you can stay and a 27-hole golf course where you can recite lines from Caddyshack.
You’ll find House on the Rock along Highway 23 in Iowa County, between Dodgeville and Spring Green. Taliesin and Spring Green are to the north, Governor Dodge State Park is to the south.
House on the Rock Address:
5754 State Highway 23
Spring Green, WI 53588