House On The Rock – Wisconsin Architecture
Villa Saint Francis of Deer Shelter Rock
Casa Del Roche
Castle Island In the Sky
Alex Jordan Jr. was the chief artist, architect, poet, master builder, owner, pioneer, innovator, and creative driving force behind the marvelous architectural wonder known as ‘House on the Rock’ in Wisconsin. The idea began around 1920 when his father, Alex Sr., was returning from a visit with Frank Lloyd Wright (FLW) where Wright had insulted Jordan’s designs without bothering to be polite. You see, the Jordan family had been fans of FLW since they lived near one of his houses, and Alex Sr. had been building the house of their dreams called “Villa Maria”. Alex Sr. had probably not expected someone that he respected and admired to be so personally rude to him. So Alex Sr. was understandably mad at FLW, and swore to put a house on the rocks nearby that would spitefully compete with FLW’s Taliesin, his architectural style, and perhaps most of all…his titanic and competitively selfish ego.
In 1945 Alex Jr. had been turned down for service in the US Military because of a heart condition, so he began camping, drinking, picnicking, entertaining, blasting dynamite, building, and hauling mortar and masonry up to the site for the House on Deer Shelter Rock. After 15 years of work, around 1960, Jordan was satisfied enough with the construction to formally advertise and open it to the public for tours. House on the Rock was written up in newspapers and magazines, and became a self-funded tourist attraction. As a true work of art, the house would never be ‘finished’ during Jordan Jr.’s life, and continued to grow.
During the 1960’s the Main House, Gate House, and Mill House opened and introduced collections of curiosities and antiques. In the 1970’s the buildings for ‘Streets of Yesterday’ and ‘Music of Yesterday’ opened. In the 1980’s ‘Carousel Room’, ‘Organ Room’, and ‘Infinity Room’ opened. Alex Jordan Jr. died in 1989. A year after his death, the ‘Heritage of the Sea Room’ and ‘Discovery Center’ opened in 1990.
The entire site is so immense and such a dense labyrinth, that no description can take the place of actually personally experiencing the complex. Alex Jordan Jr. may have shied away from personal fame, but by building the ‘House On The Rock’ for the public he also achieved a public immortality that few people achieve. He was a creator that never stopped building, collecting, and making art, architecture, and artifacts to share with other people. Alex Jordan Jr. may not have finished making additions to ‘House On The Rock’, but he did complete and surpass his father’s dream in the process of his life’s work.