Imagine walking down a long hallway with over 3,000 windows, which gets smaller and smaller until you can no longer continue. Or looking up and seeing a 200-foot whale replica with huge teeth and a tiny rowboat on its tongue. Or wandering down a red-bricked street from the 19th century, complete with shops, spindly trees, and park benches. Oddly enough, the House on the Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin, is home to all three of these attractions — and it only gets weirder the more you explore.
As a child, I visited the House on the Rock with my family. To this day, it remains one of the most fascinating places I’ve been. I gaped at the world’s largest indoor carousel and goggled at an exquisite collection of doll houses. Strange musical instruments crowded the shelves in the spiral staircases, and gleaming replicas of the Royal family’s crowns and swords rested on cushions in glass cases. Not a space in the house (a more apt description would be a topsy-turvy, spooky mansion) is left empty.
If you’re having a hard time picturing the place, that’s because it’s pretty hard to define. Below, learn the history of the House on the Rock, plus read about the top exhibits you’ll see there.
The Story of the House on the Rock
In the 1940s, a man named Alex Jordan purchased a 240-acre property that was home to a large mountain-like rock called Deer Shelter Rock, in Spring Green, Wisconsin. An eccentric person with dreams of building a house just the way he liked it, he did exactly that — and constructed the house directly on top of the rock. Much of the original home was his creation; he carried his own materials up the 60-foot rock, day after day.
Locals became quite curious about the project and asked to see what he was building. Hoping to discourage visitors, Jordan charged them 50 cents each, which only spiked curiosity. Eventually, Jordan came to terms with the visitors, as the fees helped pay for the rest of construction. He soon began adding collections and specialty items to the rooms of his house to enhance the attraction. In the 1960s, he officially opened the house to the public.
From there, the collections and the rooms at the House on the Rock grew and grew. In 1988, injured and in chronic pain from a near-fatal car accident, Jordan sold the House on the Rock to a longtime business associate, Art Donaldson — a collector and businessman from Janesville, Wisconsin. Jordan died in 1989, but the Donaldson family, who still own and operates the house, upheld his dreams of entertaining visitors from all over the world.
The Top Attractions at the House on the Rock
Wondering what curiosities you’ll see if you visit the House on the Rock? Here are the wacky collections and attractions this house has to offer.
The Infinity Room
At 218-feet long, the infinity room is not for the faint of heart, but it does have incredible views. It extends over a scenic valley with no support beams reaching to the ground. Since the room gets smaller and smaller, visitors can only walk out to a certain point before they must turn around.
The World’s Largest Indoor Carousel
With 269 animals, 20,000 lights, and 182 chandeliers, the carousel is almost overwhelming in its sparkling, spinning glory. Unfortunately, visitors cannot ride the delicate animals and fantasy creatures — but you can certainly enjoy them from afar.
A 19th Century Cobblestone Street
You’ll feel like you’re on a movie set when you step onto the 19th century brick-paved street. Complete with a sheriff’s office and a carriage house, this window into an earlier time makes for some fun family photos.
The Organ Room
The Organ Room features three of the greatest theatre organ consoles ever built, and wandering through it is no simple feat. It’s surrounded by walkways, bridges, and spiral staircases.
The Asian Garden
Not everything at the House on the Rock is indoors. Step outside on your tour and experience the peaceful Asian garden, which features a pond with Koi fish and ornate bridges.