We end our guest posts as we began nearly two weeks ago with a piece written by artist and writer Dmitry Samarov (check out his artwork, his book, his other writings, his twitter). We’re back in Wisconsin (just like we were yesterday…sorry for the focus on the American Midwest but we had posts on Turkey and Morocco so that must mean something, right?). Thanks again to everyone who submitted pieces for my little ol’ blog. I might still occasionally post guest submissions (maybe once a month) if there is enough interest. Anyway, let’s learn about the crazy tourist attraction known as The House on the Rock:
We were told not to take drugs when visiting the House on the Rock and as it turned out none were needed. The House, or more accurately, the compound of interconnected sheds and gardens that visitors creep through, is the life’s work of Alex Jordan. Legend goes that Jordan worshipped Frank Lloyd Wright and showed him some of his designs. 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.” Infuriated, Jordan found property on a pinnacle rock not far from Wright’s Taliesin and vowed to build his house there out of spite.
What he built was an immersive environment that pummels the visitor with sheer quantity. Not only is there a thousand garage sales’ worth of bric-a-brac but there seem to be at least ten of each object here, from scrimshaw to merry-go-round horses to orchestral intruments to Asian statuary. Most rooms are assembled by themes such as marine life, the circus, or “Main Street”. But within these collections there’s often no rhyme or reason as to why one relic is next to another. Peppered throughout are mechanized orchestras that spring to life when you pay with tokens you can purchase. One thing a visit here isn’t is cheap.
It’s difficult to say whether much of Jordan’s collection is valuable or an aging equivalent of tchotchkes from his era’s Dollar Store, but there were a few things there that I’d never seen before. One was a double urinal (in the men’s room, rather than on display unfortunately) which was set up in such a way that two men could have a face-to-face conversation while relieving themselves. I’m not sure whether this or much of anything else here was Jordan’s original design, but credit must be given to him for collecting it all in one place.
It took us over four hours to get through the whole place and that was without lingering too long in any of the rooms. By that last hour we were queesy and nearly hallucinating. Imagine if you physically went to all the places you Google searched in a few hours, one after another, and you have some idea of what a visit to the House on the Rock is like. Sensory overload would be an understatement. Who knows if it all means anything but it’s certainly an experience.