According to the story, an architect named Alex Jordan Jr. went to see his idol, the famed Frank Lloyd Wright, at the master's architectural school, Taliesin, in Green Lake, Wisconsin. Wright dismissed Jordan's designs, saying, "I wouldn't hire you to design a cheese crate or a chicken coop. You're not capable." Out of spite, Jordan determined to put up a parody of a Frank Lloyd Wright house up on top of a spire of rock near Green Lake.
The spire, Deer Shelter Rock, was a column of rock approximately 60 feet tall, 70 feet by 200 feet on the top, standing in a forest south of Spring Green. Jordan began construction in the 1940s, levelling off the top of the rock with explosives and eventually installing an electric hoist to aid construction. On Labor Day, 1959, he opened it to the public and a roadside tourist attraction legend was born.
Because the House on the Rock was not just an left-handed homage to a famous architect. Jordan filled his house with wonders: curios and oddities; mechanical gizmos and gee-gaws, from the mechanical bands that greet the tourists at every turn, to the self-billed World's Largest Indoor Carousel, boasting 269 animals.
Jordan did not stop there. Over the decades, he continued adding to the house, converting the rock into a complex of buildings, shops, mini-museums and exhibits, such as "The Streets of Yesterday", an indoor re-creation of Main Street America in the early 20th Century; "The Heritage of the Sea", featuring nautical exhibits and a 200-ft model of a sea monster fighting a giant squid; and "The Infinity Room", a myriad-windowed room jutting out 218 feet from rock, without any support beneath.
Many, if not most, of the antiques and curios featured in the House's various exhibits are fakes, fabricated by Jordan himself and his associates. The present-day owners of the site no longer claim authenticity of the collection. One writer put it this way:
"While the Regina Sublima [music box] is a real antique, as are many other pieces and exhibits at the House, everyone knows that other pieces are re-creations designed and built on the House property. It's part of the fun—guessing what's real at the House and what is the magic of imagination and re-creation"
The House on the Rock is still being added to today. The newest section, "The Transportation Building" is under construction, but can still be toured.
Game and Story Use
- You could find just about any oddity imaginable somewhere in the House; and not all of the oddities are fakes. Perhaps a magical artifact found it's way among the mechanical orchestras and faux Tiffany lamps.
- The location of the house, atop a stone spire, could have occult significance
- The odd archetecture of the original building was intended as a Japanese house rendered in Frank Lloyd Wright's "Prairie House" style. Or was it? Could it have been an attempt to replicate non-Euclidian geometries to contact the Elder Gods?
- The exhibits are dimly-lit, cluttered and poorly curated. It would make a perfect place to hide something…
- Several of the exhibits contain mechanical orchestras and automatons. Could one of them be a working clockwork robot?