House of Wonders
In a remote patch of Wisconsin, a mysterious midcentury architect turned his favorite wilderness retreat into one of the country’s most curious collections of kitsch.
At 5:55 p.m., a brunette woman with a walkie-talkie informed me that the picture I was taking—of a dummy Abraham Lincoln playing the clarinet in an animatronic eighty-piece orchestra—would have to be my last for the day. It was now almost closing time and I had somehow misplaced the past eight hours wandering around the cluttered, overwhelming ode to nostalgia that is the House on the Rock.
Located in rural Spring Green, Wisconsin, just down the street from Frank Lloyd Wright’s summer home and studio, the house is the brainchild of self-trained architect Alex Jordan, who purchased land on the Deer Shelter Rock formation in 1956. Jordan incorporated the rock’s contour into the base of the large house he constructed near the edge of the cliff, adding asymmetrical rows of canted windows looking out over the valley. He proceeded to fill the place with his extensive collections of kitsch, Americana, dolls, carousels, music machines, and more, and soon afterwards opened…
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