Fond memories, albeit slightly creepish

Although I never would have admitted it back then, I was a little ooked out as a kid by a popular tourist attraction that I think we visited twice (Mavis? Any recollection of going there more than the one time with Grandma and Grandpa J?).

The House on the Rock occupies a rather strange place in my memory. I was quite young (8 or 9, I think) when we went, but certain images stick out to me to this day.

Built in 1945 by eccentric dreamer Alex Jordan, and opened to the tourist public in 1960, the House is more like a rambling museum of strange and wonderful artifacts, like turn-of-the-century gadgets and toys. I remember being particularly mystified and impressed as a young violinist by the mechanical instruments. The fact that they played totally by themselves was part of the creepy fascination — at least for a 9-year-old in 1968. Now here’s where my memory gets a little fuzzy, and I can’t find out for sure if I’m remembering what was actually there, or just what I think was there.

I know there was a mechanical violin-playing contraption, and I’m almost positive that it was of the “double” variety, like the one pictured (a 1912 “Violano”). However, in all my searches of the present iteration of the attraction, I can’t find this particular instrument, other than a reference to a “single” version of the instrument, where only one violin played.

Now is it my faulty, 9-year-old’s memory that’s wishing it featured two violins? Or were there actually two violins in the display? I’m not 100% certain, but I really want to believe there were two, and that they played an old, early 20th-century parlor song in perfect-thirds harmony. But…maybe not. All I’m totally sure of is that I wanted to stand there and listen for much longer than my parents were willing to wait.

Many cool features have been added since we visited. The Infinity Room is definitely a place I’d like to see. Alternately, I would not be interested at all in the hotel, resort, and golf course they’ve put there — the result of capitalist greed coming to roost in the secluded beauty of the Wyoming Valley, which is why we can’t have nice things. Jordan charged 50 cents to see the place in 1960; now it’s $28.50 to get the whole enchilada. Psh.

Still, if you’re ever in the Madison, Wisconsin area and have a few hours to kill, it would be a shame to miss it. In the interim, here is an excellent collection of photographs from someone’s recent tour.

Happy snow day #7 for me — I’m off to take more DayQuil and try to get some work done. TTFN!

6 thoughts on “Fond memories, albeit slightly creepish

  1. Helen

    What an interesting place; how neat that you’ve been there! I first learned about the House on the Rock recently, after reading Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods.’ (A good read, by the way, that will be the new HBO series du jour.) I can’t imagine how it must have seemed as a child. So sorry you’re still sick. Rest up and feel better soon!

    1. Rat Fink Post author

      Whoa — I am buying that novel for the Nook today! I just checked it out, and I love the storyline. The only Gaiman I’ve ever read is Coraline, and I loved it, but — time to branch out. Thanks for the tip!

      And we can’t figure out whether it’s our age or this particular virus strain, but we are still feeling beat to death! Just when we think it gets better, it doesn’t. So resting is definitely going to be the order of the day today. (I’m actually thanking the snow gods!)

      PS – you guys have to take the As to House on the Rock someday!

  2. David

    One of my High School pals family went to The House on the Rock and came back with all sorts of fascinating stories of just how cool that place was. Armed with that info I did everything in my power to talk my folks into taking us kids to see it…never happened. Many, many years later I went as an adult and found it a very enjoyable presentation of history.

    As you were describing the additions of the resort, hotel and golf it reminded me of how we add so much to places like this to attract more visitors…the “more is better” that afflicts America. As a Wisconsinite do you remember the Wisconsin Dells before all the “Huckleberry Hound” nonsense that made it the tourist trap it is today? Now, my Dad loved the Dells and the Tommy Bartlett Waterski Show; we went to that many times in the late 50’s and early 60’s. I think my Dad liked to watch women in swimming suits standing on the shoulders of men. :) For me as a child I loved the whole topography of the Dells…in my imagination I was Lewis or Clark, or at the very least John Muir. One of my favorite childhood memories.

    Stay warm, stay safe, feel better and here’s hoping you are not still in classes on the Fourth of July! Hugs!

    1. Rat Fink Post author

      The Dells! Of course I remember! But I’m sad to hear about the whole “Huckleberry Hound” thing. :-( Sad, but not surprised.

      Last time I was there was around 1970, when the ski show and the Ducks were about the only thing — and we loved it all! I remember being scared. to. death. on the Ducks ride down the hill. I felt like I was going to fall out, and screamed the whole way down!

      I figured you, as a fellow cheesehead, might have also visited House on the Rock. I loved the place, and truthfully, I’d like to go again as an adult and compare my memories with what I’d think of the place now. Awesome stuff!

  3. Mavis

    Wow. Haven’t thought of that place for years! The only thing I remember was how much I liked all the trees growing right up the middle of the place. I always thought, “I could live here.” You would have been the one to remember all the mechanical stuff. I just enjoyed the nature and stone of the place.

    I do remember us going to Wisconsin Dells! That first “Duck” ride we took was so awesome! It was a great place back then. Not sure what it is now, though.

    You get better, kiddo!

    1. Rat Fink Post author

      Weren’t the Ducks awesome! They flipped me out — I thought we were going to crash with all the trees whizzing by. And I do remember, now that you mention it, the tree growing inside the house. What a crazy place!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.