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    • #11491

      Can our Wisconsin members provide me with more information about the bells that are in The House on the Rock in Spring Green, WI? There is no storyboard about them in the museum.

    • #15879
      Carolyn Whitlock

      I’ve toured the House on the Rock but I don’t remember there being any bells there! What I do remember is the vast collection of calliopes and the carousel in the big room at the end of the tour! It was quite an experience! It has probably been 25 years or so since I was there.

      Their website is

    • #15881

      The tour is divided into 3 sections now, and we only did the one for the main house because we wanted to see the infinity room. I don’t remember exactly where they were, but they were visible from one of the narrow walkways. It seems like they were right before the room with the stained glass window coffee table and mushroom lamp. As musical instruments were set up with electronics to play, I wonder if these were done the same??? Displays have been added even after Jordan’s death.

    • #15880

      I have been there twice, once 50 years ago when Alex Jordan was still alive and at the time when only the house and a few (presumably real) collectables were displayed, and again 15 years ago after the property had been sold to an equally unscrupulous promoter named Arthur Donaldson. It was hard to believe what had transpired in the intervening 35 year period, from apparently real to transparently deceptive. The property is magnificent but the contents are 95% fake, and are mostly deliberate deceptions. I recall the bells, though of scant interest to me at the time, but whether real or fake I couldn’t say.

      Jordan fancied himself an architect, among other things. About 60 years ago, he showed some of his plans to Frank Lloyd Wright, who lived nearby at the Taliesin complex. Wright scorned them, advised him to leave architecture to architects, and that set off a long attempt by Jordan to out-do Wright. He achieved that goal commercially, but his work is of no interest to architects.

      There is a particularly damning biography by Marv Balousek, a reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal, entitled
      House of Alex – A true story of architecture and art; greed, deception and blackmail

      The book begins,

      The life story of Alex Jordan and the history of the House on the Rock are inseparably bound in a fascinating tale of architecture and art, of fraud and sexual blackmail. It is a fanciful story sculpted on a potter’s wheel of creativity and inspiration, but also of tax schemes and corporate double-cross. Like a spoiled boy desperately filling his toybox, Jordan’s lifelong passion became an eccentric obsession to accumulate the largest, the biggest, and the best. Like the malformed mannequins in his eclectic collection, Jordan’s personality was comprised of seemingly contradictory parts, an artistic vision coupled with petty viciousness.

      Besides designing and supervising construction of the magnificent house and its many additions, Jordan was also an architect of deception, an artisan of artifice. He was a wizard of the rock in a double-edged sense, due to his artistic and business acumen that turned a mountain of collectables into a top-drawing tourist attraction, but due as well to his own lifelong attraction to tawdry confidence schemes. For him, the fantasy he created became his way of life. He was a shadowy figure as reclusive as the late multi-millionaire Howard Hughes and a promoter more unscrupulous than the great showman P.T. Barnum. Early in life, he learned to appreciate the thrill of the scam, a pleasure he never gave up. He was a large man physically with a narrow mind, singularly focused on his creation and collection to the exclusion of meaningful human relationships.

      That area of Wisconsin is itself magnificent. I would urge you to visit Taliesin, Spring Green, and the other delightful towns in the vicinity, but shun House on the Rock on general principles. If you attend the 2012 ABA Convention in Scottsdale AZ, you may take the opportunity to visit Taliesin West, Wright’s winter residence.

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