Growing up in the 1980’s in Lake County, there was one place that fascinated me more than anything else I had ever seen: the Gold Pyramid House in Wadsworth. With its shiny gold exterior and large pyramid shape, I have strong memories of myself as a ten-year-old, staring out the car window on the way to horseback riding lessons, fascinated by the house. The horseback riding phase only lasted about six months for me, but the curiosity about the Gold Pyramid never left. And whenever I mention the house to other Lake County friends, they are all just about as curious as I am.
A few years ago, I heard the pyramid house was opening up (again) for tours on Sundays. I was interested, but busy with my large family, so a tour was definitely put on the back burner. This year, the chance to tour popped up, and I thought it would be a nice chance to spend some interesting mother-daughter time with my almost 10-year-old history-loving daughter. And so, we were off for our adventure. As soon as you pass the gate, you will be awed by the 55-foot statue of Ramses II (the tallest in the world).
Tours run most Sundays, from mid-April through early November. Doors to the property open at 1:00 p.m., and the tour begins promptly at 2:00 p.m., and lasts about an hour. If you arrive early, you can explore the gift shop until the tour begins. The gift shop is stocked with all sorts of pyramid and Egyptian trinkets, as well as costumes, books and jewelry. Prices range from a dollar or two up to hundreds of dollars. Right from the start it was clear we were at a family establishment, as kids were helping at the register, which my daughter thought was awesome. She picked a cute little pyramid for $6. At checkout, they gave her a stack of books and a poster for free, which she also enjoyed.
We snapped some pictures and then the tour started. I was surprised to see the group was quite large (close to 100 people). We walked down the long walkway, on a bridge across the moat (with beautiful blue water, stocked with fish) to the lower level entrance of the house. My first impression was that the outside of the pyramid was not in great condition. When I was a kid, it shined, and as I learned during the presentation that it was previously gold-plated, but the weather had damaged the gold-plated tiles. The pyramid is currently awaiting a new gold-like finish to make it shine like it did in the 1980’s.
We entered through sliding glass doors into what could only be described as a very early 1980’s-style lecture room, with Egyptian mural walls, brown shag carpet and chairs. Once inside, there was an engaging 30-minute presentation by Rocco Onan, son of the owner and builder of the house. Rocco moved into the house when he was a child, and completed a lot of the work and decoration in the home under his father’s direction. Rocco explained house’s history and how it shaped his life. Hearing Rocco’s firsthand experiences about growing up in this house was fascinating. I also learned that there is a fresh spring that bubbles up in the middle of this six-story, 17,000 square foot house. And Jim and Linda Onan, the original builders and owners, still live there today. I don’t recommend the tour for children younger than age nine, however, as they might not be able to sit quietly for the entire presentation.
After the presentation by Rocco, we went into the next room on the lowest level. It was filled with interesting Egyptian artifacts that Rocco showcased. Then we headed upstairs into the residence and toured through the first floor of the Onan home. We funneled through the kitchen, where the family present, along with kids and grandkids. It was homey and lived-in.
We proceeded to the formal dining room, living room, and parlor-style room. The decor was perfectly maintained and looked to be styled in the early 1980’s; everything was very beautiful with lots of real gold artifacts. The family participated in the tour, and showcased different items within the house. The upstairs was off-limits, but you could gaze up to the different levels that narrowed to the top of the pyramid.
After the tour of the upstairs of the house, the group was led out of the pyramid house and back towards the parking lot. Before the tour ended, we were led up to what just looked like a large gravel pile, but which actually housed a replica tomb of King Tutankhamun. It was filled with interesting artifacts and was a real bonus to the tour which I hadn’t anticipated. The replica of King Tut’s mummy was creepy and cool, and my daughter loved it.
Overall, the tour of The Gold Pyramid house was a really fun, kind of strange way to spend a Sunday afternoon with my daughter. She was interested in the tour from start to finish. It was strange only because you are touring through someone’s home, and a home that is very much maintained in its late 1970’s to early 1980’s style. It’s beautiful and feels somewhat historical in itself. But Rocco Onan brings a great storytelling style and a nice level of interest and humor to the tour that really made it a fun day for us.