In the 1940s, Alex Jordan decided to build a house on Deer Shelter Rock in Wisconsin. He had a vision–an outrageous dream–that became one of the most amazing tourist attractions in America.
The House on the Rock also played a pivotal role in Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods and is featured in the TV adaptation.
How Did This Get Built?
There’s a story–probably a lie, but maybe not–that Jordan began building The House on the Rock to spite architect Frank Lloyd Wright. According to the story, Jordan showed him his designs for a house, and Wright replied, “I wouldn’t hire you to design a cheese crate or a chicken coop.”
Like so much about the house, it’s impossible to separate fact from fantasy. What we do know is that the tourist attraction is a sprawling, bizarre compound that features a giant carousel, huge sea monsters, bizarre collections from around the world, and the famous Infinity Room.
The Origin of a Tourist Trap
When Jordan began building the House, it was meant to be a weekend retreat. He never meant for it to be a tourist attraction. But news about the strange building began to spread, and people started showing up to gawk at it. So he did the only sensible thing: He started charging admission.
Jordan sold the House in 1988, just a year before his death. The new owner, his longtime friend Art Donaldson, has continued to expand the compound.
Visiting The House on the Rock
Expanding on Alex Jordan’s original dream, The House on the Rock attraction now includes a large inn, a golf course, and an upscale restaurant. Here are a few of the highlights that you won’t want to miss.
It takes hours to wander through the House. You’ll definitely want to see the carousel, which claims to be the largest in the world. It’s certainly spectacular, with nearly 300 animals (none of them are horses) and over 20,000 lights. There are hundreds of life-sized angels hanging from the ceiling in that room, too.
Heritage of the Sea
This room contains over 200 model ships, including a replica of the Titanic. The centerpiece is a massive sea monster. According to the House’s website, it’s as long as the Statue of Liberty is tall.
The Infinity Room
The Infinity Room is a 200-foot-long, spear-shaped room that juts out over the edge of the rock. You can see it from the highway over a mile away. It’s lined with thousands of windows, giving visitors a bird’s eye view of the valley below. The last hundred or so feet is completely unsupported, thanks to the tricky engineering of the room. If you’re afraid of heights, you might want to skip this one.