More House on the Rock
Lake Delton, WI - Events of Thursday, July 21, 2011
In our last post, we described our tour of the main house at House on the Rock. The 14-room house was built on top of a 60-foot high rock column by Alex Jordan, Jr. starting in 1945. In addition to the house, you can tour numerous other areas displaying many of the items collected and created by Alex Jordan. There are three separate tours - one for the house and gardens, and two more for the displays of Jordan's unique and eclectic collections. We opted for the Ultimate Experience, which includes all three tours.
After viewing the main house, we ended up back at the same checkpoint where the first tour started. They punched our tickets and sent us out a different door for Tour 2, which starts with the Mill House. The Mill House contains Alex's collections of dolls, mechanical banks, and antique guns that includes these two pistols with multiple barrels.
Alex Jordan was attracted to musical instruments of all kinds. There are numerous music boxes throughout the displays that actually play. Ultimate Experience ticket holders receive 4 free tokens which can be used to play the music boxes and other musical devices. Additional tokens are available for 25 cents from machines along the tour route. The one in the photo below had an unbelievably rich sound.
Almost nothing in the museum is labeled. It seems as if the items are on display for the sake of the display rather than to educate vistiors. Knowing that Alex Jordan was an eccentric tinkerer, one also always wonders what is real and what is not. On top of that, lighting is very dim. We think that is partly to add to the mistique of the displays and partly to hide the dust.
The next area was the Streets of Yesterday. Here, items are displayed in the windows of 19th century-style storefronts along an indoor street.
As we mentioned, Jordan was fascinated by musical instruments; and he built numerous mechanical devices to play music. These are similar to what is called a band organ or fairground organ, which is the type of device that is used to create music for many carousels - except that Jordan's devices are much larger and grander than your average band organ. These automated music macines are scattered throughout the displays at House on the Rock. The Gladiator is one such machine located in the Streets of Yesterday.
Next to the Gladiator is a contraption that looks like a steam traction engine. Steam traction engines were used in the late 1800s and early 1900s on farms to move heavy loads short distances and to power other farm equipment such as bailers and threshers. This one, however, is imbelished with polished wood fenders, fancy brass railings, brass and copper fittings and decorative lights. It looks like it was designed by Doc in the movie Back to the Future III.
The next area was The Heritage of the Sea. There are displays of nautical artifacts and scores of well-done ship models like the ones below.
There were also numerous examples of whale-tooth scrimshaw. Sailors often engraved intricate designs to pass the time during long whaling voyages.
The displays at The Heritage of the Sea line a walkway that ascends the perimeter of a three or four-story building. In the center of the building is a depiction of a whale being attacked by a giant squid.
The Music of Yesterday, which was the next display area, has the largest accumulation of automated music machines. The Blue Room features numerous stringed instruments. Although it looks like the instruments are actually being playing, the sounds of the stringed instruments and woodwinds are simulated by organ pipes.
The Mikado is another large, ornate music machine that plays Oriental-style music.
A major feature on both Tour 2 and 3 is the indoor carousel. This is the world's largest carousel with 269 hand-crafted animals, 20,000 lights and 182 chandeliers.
There all kinds of creatures and exotic animals on the carousel, but not one of them is a horse. There are unicorns and seahorses like the ones in the photo below, but no regular horses.
Tour 3 continues in the Organ Room, which is filled with, among other things, large theater organs. There are huge arrays of organ pipes with spiral staircases and ramps that enable visitors to walk among the pipes.
There are also several organ consoles like the one shown below. This one appears to be electronic. Notice the conputer screens near the top. Production of electronic theater organs started in the 1960s and 1970s,
The next console looks to be a bit more conventional, but we're not convinced it's real because of its sheer size. The console for the world's largest existing pipe organ located in the Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall only has 7 keyboards or manuals. This one has 15.
Following the Organ Room, we went through the Dollhouse Room where there were literally hundreds of dollhouses on display.
The Circus Room was another stop on Tour 3. There were numerous displays of miniature circus tents, animals, wagons and performers. There was also a huge circus wagon with an automated 40-piece band and an adjacent 80-piece orchestra that played music. The wagon was so big we couldn't even begin to photograph it (especially in the low light). There was also a life-size elepant pyramid.
Following the Circus Room, there were The Galleries with more collections of "stuff" and then two doll carousels, which are multi-level carousels with hundreds of dolls. The Ultimate Experience tour takes about three hours. By the end, we were getting tired and hot - nothing at House on the Rock is air conditioned, and it was hot and humid when we were there. We didn't slow down to look at much in those last two sections. By that time, not only were we hot and tired, but we were overwhelmed by having had so much to look at.
The House on the Rock is one of those places we kept talking about for several days afterward. It is truly a unique experience.
We started off our visit to the Lake Delton area with a long day of sightseeing. Since we were approaching the weekend, and since the weather forecast was calling for a chance of showers, we took a couple days off to do our weekly cleaning chores, for Margery to get a haricut and to hit Walmart to restock some groceries. There is plenty left to see in the Lake Delton area, so stay tuned.