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Nov 26 2012

The Minister’s Treehouse – Crossville, Tennessee

Category: Egress,Road TripsLori @ 3:54 pm Comments (19)

I just returned from a trip to visit my brother and sister-in-law in Grassy Cove, Tennessee.  If you’re a long-time reader of IDH, you may remember when I visited them way back in 2009 for the Chip Falcon Road Trip (my brother did the cycle testing).

When we visited last year, my brother and I went to see the Minister’s Treehouse in nearby Crossville.  The treehouse was built by Horace Burgess, an ordained minister and landscape architect, who received a message from God that if he started building, he’d never run out of materials.  Constructed of reclaimed wood and other recycled materials (along with approximately 258,000 nails), the treehouse has grown to 10 stories, 100 feet tall, and 8,000-10,000 square feet.

The treehouse is like no other structure I’ve seen before.  So, you may be asking yourself, why didn’t I ever share the photos with y’all?  From a fire and egress standpoint, let’s just say that the treehouse is a problem.  I found myself in a catch-22 situation…expose the situation to the world and risk being blamed for closing down a beloved roadside attraction?  Or keep quiet and potentially see someone get hurt?  I knew that the local authorities must already know about the treehouse – it’s the #2 attraction in Crossville according to TripAdvisor!  While I was wondering what to do, time went by and I eventually forgot about it.

Last week my brother told me that the treehouse had been closed by the state fire marshal’s office on August 30th.  I swear, I wasn’t the one who brought it up with them.  I’m torn…on one hand the building is definitely unsafe, it’s 60′ higher than code allows, and it’s visited by about 1,000 people per week.  On the other hand, Horace has spent 19 years building the treehouse, after receiving divine inspiration.  This article from the Crossville Chronicle lists the specific issues raised by the fire marshal.  Having visited the site, I don’t think there’s any way the treehouse could be made anywhere near code-compliant.

Check out the photos and then let me know what you think about the fire marshal’s decision.  I wasn’t documenting fire and egress issues when I took the photos, but I think you can get an idea of what the treehouse is like.

Inside the rounded area is a spiral staircase:

Here’s the top of the spiral staircase from the interior:

Another stairway:

I’m not sure what this shaft is for…definitely not an elevator.

The sanctuary:

The tree house doesn’t have a whole lot of doors, but here’s the Door of Doom (do not open):


More photos and information here:

World’s Tallest Treehouse Built From Reclaimed Wood – Inhabitat

Divine vision inspired a 97-foot treehouse – USA Today

The Minister’s Treehouse (video) – Knox News

World’s largest treehouse near Crossville – Funster

19 Responses to “The Minister’s Treehouse – Crossville, Tennessee”

  1. Charly Shannon says:

    Call it a work of art not a house. Might work

  2. Keith K says:

    How insane is that structure, looks like a stiff breeze might blow it to bits!

  3. Eric Rieckers says:

    It’s obvious that God wasn’t specific enough in the bid/construction documents about complying with applicable building codes. Either that or Mr. Burgess should stick with saving souls and leave construction to a professional. I recommend that both parties should not only join CSI but, at the very least, take the CDT exam.

  4. Dan Poehler says:

    I looked at the photos prior to reading the article and my heart immediately started to race. I could see the worlds largest bonfire all at the whim of some brain-dead idiot who wanted to see God (or the Devil) first-hand. Tree houses were never meant for habitation, unless of course, you’re an Avitar.

  5. Jamo Ladd says:

    This is pretty cool. Not looking at codes or anything, it is a terrific feat and I am sure has brought much enjoyment to many. Very creative and Impressive

  6. Mojo says:

    This structure appears to be a very large, deadly bon fire waiting to happen; not to mention the many openings where children or adults could fall to their deaths.

    How could anyone allow folks to climb all over this tree house?

  7. Tom Breese says:

    Yup, a fire trap, and really rickety-looking. The Reverend has every right to live there if he chooses, and people can voluntarily take the risk of entering. If the place burns down, hopefully fully evacuated, there should be no burden to local taxpayers. If the forest burns, though, the Owner will have to answer for damages. Maybe he could dig a pool or some sort of reservoir system, plus pumps for fighting the fire?

  8. curtis meskus says:

    what about the tree of life in Disney

  9. Vincent Chestnut says:

    My first thoughts were this is not even structurally sound. How are those ‘decks’ supported?
    I too was fearing for a stiff breeze when I looked down that shaft.
    Fire trap? That didn’t come to mind until I read the comments, as most wooden structures are fire traps anyway.

  10. Dave Bishton says:

    I’d call it a deathtrap from a public safety perspective. Divinely inspired idea – maybe. Divinely inspired execution – no way. Money maker in a tourist town – without question.

  11. Brad Keyes says:

    What’s the Number 1 attraction in Crossville…? The local McDonald’s?

  12. John Truempy says:

    I am guessing the code they are using is the high-rise code? There are other places that get a past this like the Washington Monument and the Statue of Liberty. Other then the fact he needs to make sure it is structurally sound the rest seem easy like marking exits. Installing railings. Even a deluge fire system would be easy to install.

    I don’t know if God will provide a fire pump but who knows 🙂

  13. JK3 says:

    The public should not be in the house due to potential life safety issues…..I feel the Fire Marshal is looking at it from that point of view. But it is a work of art.

  14. Rev. Walling says:

    This minister obviously misunderstood God’s word to him. If we start building with souls to the kingdom much will be accomplished. This building is of no value to the kingdom.

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