Frank Lloyd Wright was born in Richland Center, Wisconsin. He attended, but didn’t get a degree from, the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Following the Chicago fire in 1871, Wright went to there to find work, starting as a draftsman for the Silsbee architectural firm, and later became a protégé of Louis Sullivan. He designed dozens of buildings in the Chicago area. Around 1900 he began to do homes in what became known as the “prairie style.” A scandal involving Mamah Borthwick Cheney, the wife of an Oak Park neighbor, made him persona non grata for a while in America, and he moved to Europe, leaving wife and children behind in Oak Park. After a stint in Europe, he built a home and school near Spring Green, Wisconsin named after the Welsh bard Taliesin.
Alex Jordan Jr. was an eccentric millionaire from the Madison area with architectural aspirations. There is a legend that he met with Frank Lloyd Wright to discuss some of his designs. When Wright viewed his ideas with scorn, he decided to build a house on top of Deer Shelter Rock out of spite. Whatever the truth of the legend, in the 1940s, Jordan began putting his imaginative architectural ideas in practice. The eclectic building houses a variety of themed rooms and collections of faux and real antiques and fanciful oddities reflecting the builder’s imagination and tastes. It has been a tourist attraction since it opened for visitors in 1959.
Laetitia and her group toured both Taliesin and House on the Rock and went hiking along the Wisconsin River. They passed an organic farm on their hike, and the farmer invited them over to look at his chickens, which were a cross breed between Barred-Rocks and Rhode Island Reds. When he was buying chicks to start out, he had chosen the Rhode Island Red breed, but a clueless employee from the hatchery had given him male Barred Rocks and female Rhode Island Reds. The chicks from the two breeds are easily distinguishable, but the farmer was too green to notice until the birds began to fledge. He later learned that such mix-ups were not uncommon, and that customers of that hatchery often complained about being the recipient of a “pullet surprise.” Laetitia thanked him for his story, and she and her group moved on. At dinner, she presented the day’s limerick.
When a farmer near House on the Rock
Viewed the black stripes that covered his cock
He knew that instead
Of a Rhode Island Red
His young fledgling bird was a Barred Rock.