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Weird and Wonderful in Madison – Part 6

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Awe and Whimsy at House on the Rock

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It’s amazing. It’s weird. It’s inspiring. It’s a little bit creepy. But it all just goes to show what one man or woman’s passions—or neurosis—can bring to fruition. This, is the House on the Rock. (To start at Part 1 click here)

There are actually three parts to this destination – The Attraction; The Inn, a family-friendly retreat; and The Resort, an upscale accommodation with a spa and 27-hole championship golf course.

The main attraction is the creation of Alex Jordan, Jr., who in the 1940s happened up on a 60-foot chimney of rock in the sandstone of the Wyoming Valley where he decided to build a home as a weekend retreat. The 14-room home was so odd, both in its composition, architecture, and location that people started coming by, asking for a close-up look.

Jordan, a brilliant visionary but an unemployed, loner who never lived here, rather in a dinky apartment in Madison, was nonetheless somewhat of an astute businessman who after a while figured out that by charging entrance—50 cents at the time—he could finance his dream which over the years grew into a massive complex encompassing several buildings, exhibits, garden displays, and more.

To say “Seeing is believing” is really an understatement, but an apt description of this place where visitors—like myself—walk around in utter amazement and at times in sheer disbelief at all that you find here. In 1960 Jordan officially opened the property to visitors, then, because of his failing health, sold it to a family in 1988 one year prior to his death. So the property is really a joint collaboration between Jordan’s work, purchases and donated items, which were carried on in Ernst after his death, now encompassing even more than perhaps even he could envision.

The place is so expansive and there are so many things to see, that moving through at a brisk pace takes about 3 hours! Therefore, some people come over a couple of days, or in the morning, and later in the afternoon just to take it all in. The collections are just unreal, with my honorable mentions including the Infinity Room in the Main House—a 218-foot long cantilever with 3,263 windows as walls that stretches over the towering treetops below, the “Streets of Yesteryear” in the Mill House, the world’s second largest collection of music machines, many of which are set to play automatically (my mouth and eyes were wide open the entire time in here!), and the world’s largest indoor carousel, featuring more than 20,000 lights, 182 chandeliers and 269 handcrafted carousel animals, not one of which has a horse head on it!

The main point of it all is the Jordan desired to create something where sight and sound would have a profound effect on the senses, and boy did he accomplish that! Eclectic, exotic, unusual, weird, amazing, gigantic…you name it, The House of the Rock is another Madison must see!

All the World’s a Stage

Theater-lovers would thoroughly enjoy the American Players Theatre, also in Spring Green. Boasting an annual attendance of more than 100,000 people, the Theatre ranks as the country’s second largest outdoor theater devoted to the classics.

The setting is the first thing to capture your attention—set on 110 hilly acres of woods and meadows—where patrons come throughout the June to October season to embark upon what the organization calls a cultural picnicking tailgate with baskets packed full of food, adult beverages, and a warm and welcoming camaraderie amongst the multitude of picnic tables that envelop the landscape. This really set the stage for our visit here.

The unique aspect of the theater season here is that they present eight plays in rotating repertory, very unlike most other companies that present only one at a time, giving theater-enthusiasts numerous opportunities to enjoy a variety of wonderful performances each year. Performances take place in their intimate 201-seat indoor Touchstone Theatre, as well as in their flagship, 1,148-seat outdoor amphitheater set in the hillside where every seat offers great views of the stage and nature surrounding it.

We’ve got a couple more forays through Madison!

(To start at Part 1 click here)

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