House on the RockHouse on the Rock
Once Is Not Enough!
Celebrating 50 Years!
It all began in 1945 when a man named Alex Jordan had a towering goal: to build a retreat as awe-inspiring as the view from the rock upon which the House would eventually be built.
What took shape on and around Deer Shelter Rock is a truly remarkable achievement. The House was only the beginning. In the years that followed, Alex expanded his vision beyond the house and collected and built on a massive scale. In the end he had created the world renowned attraction known as the House on the Rock.
One Man’s Dream
Geologists say this lush green valley was once covered by a huge ocean. The waters eroded the stone and left craggy rock formations towering the valley floor. Alex first spied one such unusual outcropping of rock called Deer Shelter Rock, which by then had become a popular picnicking spot, on a family outing when he was a boy and by the early 1940s he was already dreaming of building a house there.
At first Alex picnicked on the rock. It was not long before picnics were not enough. He felt the need to begin building the house of his dreams. And so begin his life-long endeavor. At first he built what he called a “shack” but tore it down because he was not satisfied. He then rebuilt and called his creation The Winter Room which he used as a private retreat where he could pursue his interests in music, books and sculpture. In the years that followed he added more rooms – thirteen in all by the early 1960s. Alex never drew up any plans for the House but built directly from the ideas in his head and was not afraid to tear down, backtrack and re-build if things we not to his liking.
Inevitably, Jordan’s grand project began attracting attention from friends and passersby. As the number of sightseers increased, he built a staircase for them – now a 375-foot ramp through the tree tops. In 1960, he bowed to the inevitable and opened the House on the Rock to the public, charging fifty cents for admission. The revenue was immediately reinvested in expanding the scope of his dream.
The House as it appears today is the same as Alex left it. There have been some technical improvements, maintenance and a few things have been added in the Jordan tradition. What started as a simple “shack,” a sculptor’s retreat, continues to charm and fascinate thousands of visitors from around the world.
Our Journey as We Evolve, Expand and Improve!
1960 The House on the Rock opens to the public.
The house has canted windows with thousands of individual glass panes and an Art and Music Room, appointed with metal sculptures, Tiffany-inspired stained glass panels, and the only Bauer and Coble Mushroom Lamp in existence. There is also a medieval-looking bell gallery; and a three-story-tall bookcase filled with rare books.
1961 The Gatehouse.
Serving as an entrance to the main House, the Gate House greets you with warm, dramatic stone walls and a huge fireplace. The Gate House Ensemble plays “Bolero” by Ravel.
1968 The Millhouse.
Feel the dramatic ambience created by a dazzling array of glassware, suits of armor, a giant bellows decorated with unusual paperweights and an immense fire pit with huge cauldrons on the hearth of a fireplace so large it could fit an entire tree. There’s so much to see – even special exhibits in the Men’s and Women’s restrooms.
1971 The Streets of Yesterday.
Stroll along the bricked street of this recreation of a 19th century village in the evening under lighting in a 3/4 scale, each building detailed inside and out. You’ll delight at the period furnishings of a wood-carver’s shop, china shop, sheriff’s office, fire station, apothecary, carriage house, Grandma’s house, barbershop and much more.
1974 The Music of Yesterday.
It is the culmination of Alex’s love of mechanical/animated music machines with a variety of styles. It includes the Absinthe House Piano – where the roll is a big linked loose ribbon of paper versus a tightly wound spool, a jazzy ensemble at Miss Kitty’s Boudoir, the Peacock (a giant player organ system), the Blue Danube and the Cremona are just some of the machines. The Little Streets is indicated as an extension of the shops of the Streets of Yesterday area and offers Guests a feeling of being a window shopper in days-gone-by. The final music machine on this part of the journey premiered in 1979. The Red Room plays a familiar tune from the Nutcracker.
1981 The Carousel and the Organ Room.
The Carousel, 80 feet in diameter, with 20,000 lights and 269 handcrafted animals, including highly detailed and lavishly painted sea unicorns, walruses, frogs, boars and zebras opened on Easter weekend.
The huge, dreamlike Organ Room is filled with displays and constructions designed to fill the senses, including huge vats, cannons, a giant ship’s propeller, spiral staircases, bridges, banks of organ pipes and a 45-foot-high perpetual motion clock.
1982 The Doll Carousel Room.
Two enchanting doll carousels, two and three tiers high, showcase hundreds of bisque dolls, many riding ponies. There is also the 52-foot long cannon that if it were able to shoot cannonballs, they would be 47″ round and weigh 7,000 pounds. This large cannon was designed and built on site and was one of the only times that Alex could not say make it bigger!
1983 The Container Garden Displays.
There are approximately 250-275 varieties of plants of which many are exotic and not commonly found in gardens in the Midwest. The favorites are the “Sensitive Plant”, the “Easter Egg Plant” (a relative to the eggplant) and the giant Dahlias. The Amaryllis was Alex’s favorite flower.
1984 The Doll House Maze.
More than 200 absolutely gorgeous dollhouses, meticulously furnished, scaled and crafted, down to the tiniest details, including interior lighting.
1985 The Infinity Room.
The 218-foot-long Infinity Room, with 3,624 windows, suspends you in space for a 360-degree view that includes the forested valley 156 feet below?
1987 The Galleries.
The first of several galleries, all of which opened in 1987, is the Weapons Room. It has examples of traditional weapons and unique items like the artificial leg with the derringer built in and many pieces that are works-of-art. In the next gallery you can see Oriental artifacts. Exquisitely carved corks and ivory pieces highlight this area. The Armor Gallery features armor through the ages, from King Arthur to the Samurai to Hannibal depicted crossing the Alps. All the armor in this collection was made especially for The House on the Rock. You’ll be dazzled by these meticulous replicas of the Tower of London’s Crown Jewels, as well as the royal tiara collection, crowns of nobility, world-famous jewels and swords of state.
1987 The Circus Building.
You could spend all day inspecting the miniature circuses displayed here. Though comprised of more than a million pieces, they are dwarfed by a colossal circus wagon, with 40-piece animated band, accompanied by an 80-piece orchestra. The musical ensemble is facilitated by 37 miles of wiring and 2,300 pneumatic motors. In the Upper Circus there are Barranger Motion Machines. The machines were produced during the 1920’s to 1950’s to display diamonds and jewelry in store windows.
1990 The Heritage of the Sea.
Stuffed to the gills with an entire maritime collection, this building will overwhelm you with its gigantic Sea Creature – 60′ tall and 200′ long, longer than the Statue of Liberty is tall, engaged in a titanic struggle involving an octopus and a whaling expedition. Elsewhere, you’ll see a display of artifacts from the Titanic, an exhibition of exquisitely carved scrimshaw and more than 200 highly detailed model ships and vessels.
1995 The Tribute to Nostalgia.
Ever take a cruise in a 1963 Lincoln Continental? One that’s armor-plated and covered in tiles? It’s just one of the marvelous modes of travel you’ll find in this exhibit, which also features a comically complicated Rube Goldberg machine and a display of Burma Shave signs.
1998 The House on the Rock Inn.
The Inn is a 114 room family friendly hotel.
1999 The House on the Rock Resort.
The Resort is an 80 room all suites hotel with a 27 hole golf course, spa and dining.
2002 The Spirit of Aviation.
Reminiscent of a 1950s airfield, this nostalgic display features a huge collection of model planes including a P47N Thunderbolt, a Hawker Hurricane, an A25 Invader, and other fighting planes from both World Wars, plus Navy planes through the 1960s. See a 1918 Curtis biplane engine, a period airfield cafe and an impressive collection of Seven-Up memorabilia. Included in this area are newspaper articles on the wall denoting key moments in aviation history from the Hindenburg crash to the events of September 11, 2001.
2005 Inspiration Point.
You can journey along a walkway that provides and impressive perspective of the Infinity Room from below. You can also dine in the restaurant that offers towering windows with awe-inspiring views of the House on the Rock.
2008 The Japanese Garden.
There’s a 14-foot quadruple waterfall that cascades into the pond of the Japanese Garden. Every detail was carefully designed and installed right down to the “carp stone” at the base of the Dragon Falls. Behind the waterfalls in the Zen tradition is a dry garden. You may enter the peaceful refuge through and open gate and use a traditional Japanese garden rake to form the fine gravel.
2009 The Alex Jordan Center and the Asian Garden.
The Alex Jordan Center contains a great number of notes, drawings, letters and other memorabilia detailing the creation of the House on the Rock and the life of Alex Jordan. You’ll learn more about Alex Jordan and the history of the House on the Rock.
Christmas at The House on the Rock
During the holidays, the House on the Rock is transformed with the splendor and joy of the Christmas season. Santa takes up residence in a big way! As you stroll through the shortened tour of exhibits, you’ll be greeted by more than 6,000 collectible Santas of all sizes and types – large, small, fancy and homespun.
Plan to Visit Soon!
Since those early days, the world Alex Jordan created has grown far beyond the original House and into an attraction with many buildings, exhibits and collections. During the regular season, the attraction has three sections so that if you are not able to visit all three sections in one day, you may return to see the remaining sections or only purchase a ticket for one section.
In Section One you’ll visit the foundation of Alex Jordan’s vision – the architecture and magnificent structures of the Original House and the Gate House. Section One includes The Gate House, The Original House and the Infinity Room, the Alex Jordan Center and the Gardens.
Section Two moves from the unique architecture of the House to the imaginative contents and creations of Jordan’s vision. Section Two features the Mill House, Streets of Yesterday, The Heritage of the Sea, Tribute to Nostalgia, Music of Yesterday, Spirit of Aviation and The Carousel.
Section Three’s focus is on Alex Jordan’s varied and eclectic collections that range from the miniature to the magnificent.
Section Three includes the Carousel, the Organ Room, Inspiration Point, The Dollhouse Room, The Circus room, The Galleries and The Doll Carousel Room
For rates, dates and other information, please call or visit their website.