According to Alex Jordan, the builder/creator of "The House on the
Rock," he began its construction in 1946. By accident, he and his
partner discovered that tourists would pay good money to see this house
built on top of Percussion Rock. Over the subsequent three decades,
Alex added to his creation with a great deal of imagination. Other
than building construction details required by the State of Wisconsin,
Alex told me that each exhibit existed only in his brain. He would
direct contractors and his employees as to how each one was to look.
Two of the exhibits, "The Mikado" and "The Blue Room", were built
from previously intact Mortier Cafe Organs which were disassembled.
"The Mikado" was originally Mortier # 663, but wound up as a series
of individual pipe ranks, each attached to its own Ametek "Windjammer"
blower salvaged from Xerox photocopiers. I still own the forlorn
chassis of Mortier #663 which I purchased from Alex in the early l980s.
More than a few of the automatic musical instruments on display at The
House used audiotapes to demonstrate how they used to sound because,
with an average of over 32,000 plays per 6 month season, Alex's staff
could not keep most of the automatic musical instruments operational.
Prior to his death, Alex sold his spare inventory of automatic musical
instruments to a private collector in South Pasadena, California. He
then sold "The House on the Rock" to a private individual. I had not
heard that this individual had sold The House to the State of
I would imagine that very few of the hundreds of thousands of
individuals who visit "The House on the Rock" every tourist season
know the backgrounds of many of the exhibits there. Much of it came
from Alex Jordan's imagination but is impressive nonetheless. I was
fortunate to have known this whimsical creator and to have been
permitted to have bought a few things from his collection.
Among other revelations, "The House on the Rock" suggests that the
public would be intrigued by an actual collection of well-restored
authentic automatic musical instruments. It is indeed curious that
so far only "The House on the Rock" displays these collectibles along
with Alex Jordan's fantastic transformations of them.