July 13, 2024
The House on the Rock, Spring Green, Wisconsin

If you have the itch for kitsch, House on the Rock will scratch it

This gem along Wisconsin’s Highway 23 is eclectic, strange… and awesome

Entrance sign for The House on the Rock, along Highway 23 south of Spring Green, Wisconsin

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.

A cozy couch in one of the rooms at The House on the Rock just south of Spring Green
The original House on the Rock uses Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired architecture – and looks awfully cozy.
Central gardens at The House on the Rock, Spring Green, Wisconsin
The walkways, ponds, and bridges add to the Japanese-style architectural influence at House on the Rock.

To Infinity and Beyond

People checking out the Infinity Room at House on the Rock, Spring Green, Wisconsin
Visitors heading in and out of the Infinity Room at House on the Rock
Window to the ground below in the Infinity Room at House on the Rock, Spring Green, Wisconsin

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!

View from the Infinity Room at House on the Rock
A view from the Infinity Room at House on the Rock

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.

The Delta Queen ship replica at The House on the Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin
A model of the Mississippi River steamboat Delta Queen. President Jimmy Carter rode on the real steamboat and signed this model in 1979.
Some of the art along the outside of House on the Rock, Spring Green, Wisconsin
Some of the outdoor art at House on the Rock
Extensive bookshelves at House on the Rock – no word on when any of these were last read
Waterwheel at House on the Rock, Spring Green, Wisconsin
A waterwheel helping to circulate the waters in the outdoor gardens at House on the Rock
The House on the Rock, Spring Green, Wisconsin
Was this ever on the World’s Largest Carousel? It certainly causes you to give a double-take.

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.

Pretty much everything you see in this photo is making music.
Over 20,000 lights, 182 chandeliers, and 269 animals don the World's Largest Carousel, which spans 80 feet and weighs 36 tons.
Over 20,000 lights, 182 chandeliers, and 269 animals don the World’s Largest Carousel, which spans 80 feet and weighs 36 tons.

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
(608) 935-3639

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