Saturday, September 27, 2014
It will soon be going on three weeks that we have parked in southern Illinois. The initial reason was to assist our daughter Melissa with babysitting while she was studying for her social work license test. She has since successfully passed that hurdle and we are planning to move northward to St.Louis in the coming week. It has certainly been a joy babysitting our grandson Nathan during the past few weeks! This past week he and his Mom joined John and I on several short hikes at Ferne Clyffe State Park. We are very thankful for the Scout publication, a guide to Southern Illinois tourism and recreation which has made it possible to find this park, as well as many others which I have written about on this site.
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Saturday, September 6, 2014
It is time to start heading south, it did get a bit cool for us early this morning. We will be leaving the Lake Geneva area today, and driving into Illinois. Yesterday, on our way to Kenosha, we stopped at the Jelly Belly Center which is located in Pleasant Prairie. We took a train tour through the factory which amounted to stops at video stations where the history of the Jelly Belly Candy Co. is told. We were informed that to see the actual production of the candy we need to visit their company out east.
Friday, September 5, 2014
This town has always fascinated me. When I lived in Chicago, during nursing school, it was always referred to as that place where the rich people of Chicago spent their summers. In the past two days I learned it was all that, and much more. The first day we were here we walked around the downtown and from there into the residential areas. We learned, from historical markers, that the town was founded in the mid 1800s. Pictured below is a home built in 1847, and later owned by Charles Wilson ambassador to England. In the 1870s he helped obtain the railroad link from Chicago that made Geneva's resort development possible.
Another house, which is rather modest in size, is the Blacktoft, built in 1881. It was originally painted black, but now is very distinctive with its white clapboard and many red chimneys. In later years it was the summer residence of Montgomery Ward Thorne, descendent of the founder of the Montgomery Ward Stores. We learned on our boat tour that there are 1,000 piers around the lake and they all get pulled out of the lake come December. Residents on the lake live here an average of 35 days out of the year. Probably an exception to that was 1871, the year of the great Chicago fire, when people fled the city to live in their summer residences on Lake Geneva. In case you are wondering if there is a place for you along the shores of Lake Geneva, there is one public beach for which there is an admission fee. In the background of the picture below is what use to be the Riviera Ballroom. Built in 1932, it was a popular venue for some of the biggest names in music history, including Louis Armstrong.
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Over the Labor Day week-end we made a trip to Plover,Wisconsin, the home of our niece Rachel and husband Ben and daughter Eliza. Also visiting them were Rachel's parents Marcus and Heidi, as well as her brother Adam and his wife Kjerstin with their son Kai.. Our travels are certainly wonderfully enhanced by family gatherings! Technically I was done with writing about southwestern Wisconsin. Devil's Lake is north of Spring Green, about 20 miles south of the Wisconsin Dells. As I had written before, the southwestern section of the state is called the Driftless region. In contrast to that area, Devil's Lake is glaciated. It was formed many years ago when the Wisconsin glacier invaded hills from the east, and impounded an ancient river. As the ice melted it left a mass of rock and sand (moraines) at both ends of a gorge, damming the river and creating Devil's Lake. That is about as simple as I can make it! The park has within its boundaries parts of the Ice Age National Trail, so we were pleasantly surprised when we discovered that we did not have to pay the state fee for entering the park because we had a national park pass.
In the past week I tried to cover the majority of what we saw in this part of the state, but there is much more which I did not tell you about. I must say that we packed a lot into every day! When we were at House on the Rock I could not help but think of Frank Lloyd Wright. I wondered whether he and Alex Jordan ever chanced to meet. There was forty seven years difference in their ages, so maybe not. They seemed to have so much in common- a deep love of the hills and bluffs of the Wisconsin River Valley, and a desire to build homes blending in with the natural surroundings. Wright built six structures in Spring Green, including his own home Taliesin. We had toured his western home in Arizona and, as it is not cheap to visit his places, we decided not to visit the buildings in this area. We did stop at the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center, a place which he designed. It has a cafe, exhibits of his work, and bookstore- all of which have outstanding views of the Wisconsin River. There we learned of the Unitarian Chapel located nearby and which was his family's church. Wright worked with a Chicago architect in creating the "cottage church". He was a young man at the time it was built in 1886. While walking through the cemetery next to the church we discovered the gravestone of Wright, as well as those of his six children.
We could not leave the area without visiting the "Wisconsin Desert", located at Spring Green Preserve. As an interpretive sign at the park describes it, it is where "forest meets bluff and bluff levels into sandy plains and dunes". All I can say is what a beautiful place!
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Alex Jordan enjoyed spending time in his retreat house on the rock, pursuing his interests in books, art and sculpture. He also enjoyed listening to music recordings, especially orchestral sounds. He collected guns, armor, and dolls for the Mill House. However, his imagination was flying into wider interests than his collections, because he soon was creating music machines. In 1974 he showcased them as The Music of Yesterday. One of the more interesting is the Mikado with its flamboyant Oriental facade.
Pictured above is part of a sea creature which is in battle with a giant octopus, the sculpture is as long as the Statue of Liberty is tall. It can be found in the Sea Heritage Room, a room which was not completed before Alex Jordan's death in 1989. Reportedly a frail Jordan had climbed into the mouth of the whale several months before he died. In reality, volumes could be written about House on the Rock. I did not even write anything about the world's largest carousel which it houses. The carousel has no horses but 269 creatures, both real and mythological. It also sparkles with 20,000 individual lights. I would not mind returning to this house in another few years, and it should be on everyone's bucket list!
Monday, September 1, 2014
The visitor to House On The Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin cannot help but feel that they are in for a magical, fun experience when they enter the driveway to this special house. Large flower pots, besides containing many colorful flowers, are also crawling with lizards and snakes and a variety of winged creatures. There are more of these pots in the parking lot as well as at the entrance to the house. John and I had been here probably about 20 years ago, but I am certainly glad we returned. I did not remember the flower pots, as well as many other things in the house or Japanese Gardens.
After purchasing our tickets we entered an area of the building where there are many exhibits and much information on the creator of House On The Rock, Alex Jordan. He was a dropout from college, and in his early twenties became fixated with a chimney rock called Deer Shelter Rock, located near his home. He frequently had picnics on it, and eventually paid twenty dollars to lease it. Later he was able to purchase the land surrounding the rock, and the rest is history. By the 1940s, at the age of 26 years, he started building - carrying water, timber and cement up the 75 foot rock. He dismissed the enormity of this project with these words: “I did the whole top myself. There never was a master plan- it just developed as I went along. What happens is you start out small, build a platform, some place between the rocks….” By the 1960s the house was in the shape we see it today, and Jordan opened the house to the public. He had a full-time employee by then who helped him put in some 110,000 plants on the 200 acres which surround the rock. Japanese gardens with ponds and waterfalls can be seen from the walkways around the buildings.The rooms of these additions have built-in sofas, benches and bookcases. There is a warm and intimate atmosphere enhanced by the cozy nooks and casual seating. It is a shame that no one is currently living in these rooms!
In 1970 Jordan was enthralled by Tiffany reproduction lamps and hung many of them in the house. He also covered the windows with blue glass to redirect light and increase the effects of the lamps. I will write more on this fascinating House as well as Jordan's amazing collections in my next posting