Monday, November 17, 2014

House On the Rock

I've been to Wisconsin a few times in my life. A couple times to whitewater kayak and once on a trip to visit my parents who were midway on their third bicycle ride across the continent. All those times had been quite awhile ago so when our daughter's school had two days off before a weekend, we decided to make a long weekend of it and travel up there to see what we could see. Largely we were just heading to the Madison, Wisconsin area but along the way, I saw the signs for House on the Rock.

Now I had thought House on the Rock was a Frank Lloyd Wright house built over rocks and a waterfall but it wasn't. That was nearby. House on the Rock was a house built by one man over the years to specifically be a tourist attraction. Now it is nothing but a tourist trap as I call them, designed to separate money from your wallet while on vacation. But since we were there, we had the place pretty much to ourselves due to it being the middle of the week and cold, we decided to separate some money from my wallet and see it.

It was okay. I found the history of the place, the whys and hows it was built to be dull, but as an eccentric art collection, it was really neat. The man who built the house, also collected stuff and built rooms out of various things that were really quite beautiful. The man, whose name escapes me but really isn't important enough to look up, had enough money coming in from tourism that he was able to employ a large staff dedicated to building artistic things such as the statue seen above.

The only two pictures I have of the actual house that the fellow built that are showable are the one above and below and these are of a room added by more recent owners of the house. They are of a room cantilevered above the valley floor and built so that it kind of resembles that it goes to infinity and thus the name.

Once you got out to the end where it was gates off, you came to a window in the steel girders with a glass window in it so you could see just how high you were in the sky. Being steel and it was a windy day, there was quite a bit of flex in the floor which when combined with the view through the window, was kind of unnerving.

Among the many collections, two of the largest were scrimshaw and guns. This scrimshaw work just blows me away with the intricacy of it.

At one point in the tour, you came to a large room and if you looked up at the ceiling, you saw hundreds of these. It was neat and spooky and downright disturbing all at the same time. I'm not sure what called this man to turn manikins into angels and I'm not sure I want to meet him to find out.

This wasn't art intentionally nor was it displayed but along one of the paths I spied this tree which had grown around a board that had been presumably nailed to it at one point. I view trees largely as inanimate objects but when given a time frame such as this tree growing around a board, it illustrates that they are very much alive and growing.

With the price of admission, we were given some tokens for "music boxes" scattered throughout the place. The first couple of music boxes were simply animatronic type displays but eventually we came to a series of large animatronic displays that pretty much take your breath away. While few parts still functioned in the displays, enough did to give you a sense of how grand they must have been back in the day. Each one played a different song and had anywhere from a couple dozen instruments all played by machine to a few hundred instruments.

Part of the self guided tour referred to a carousel at the end of section 2 and start of section 3. I thought it would be a good place to let the kids blow off some energy before we tackled the last third of the tour. However it turned out to be a display of the largest carousel in the world and we weren't allowed to ride it. So you can see my eight year old standing there lost in amazement and disappointment. It had just shy of 300 animals to choose from and not one of them was a horse.

I took lots of pictures during the tour but few turned out. I think being a tourist trap, they intentionally kept all the rooms barely lit so that without a flash, you couldn't grab a decent picture and with a flash, most things were too far away for the flash to light up. So in order to see the place, you actually have to pay money to see the place, a well thought up plan for a tourist trap.


sage said...

Thanks for taking us there... Interesting, but probably won't be on my list the next time I am in Wisconsin

Ed said...

Sage - If I go back, it will be pretty low down on my list especially since I've seen it the first time. I definitely don't think I would visit it during peak summer tourist season.

edifice rex said...

This was a "house" and it contained the largest carousel in the world?? But wait, let's back up bit.... what was that part about your parents riding across the continent 3 times on bicycles?? This post has just got me all flabbergasted!

warren said...

The scrimshaw is beautiful...I am not sure that I have ever seen it in real life but it looks exquisite!