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97 foot treehouse

TreehouseHorace Burgess from Tennessee has built a 97 foot tall treehouse taking over 14 years to construct. The treehouse is built on an 80 foot tall white oak tree with a 12 foot diameter, with six other trees bracing the tower-like fortress.

CROSSVILLE, Tenn. — Horace Burgess’s treehouse may be as close to heaven as a body can get in Cumberland County.

“I built it for everybody. It’s God’s treehouse. He keeps watch over it,” said Burgess, who received his inspiration in a vision that came to him in 1993. “I was praying one day, and the Lord said, ‘If you build me a treehouse, I’ll see you never run out of material.”‘

And thus far, as Burgess sees it, the Lord has provided. Most of his materials are recycled pieces of lumber from garages, storage sheds and barns. Now into his 14th year of construction, he is not finished.

The treehouse has 10 floors, averaging nine to 11 feet in height by Burgess’s reckoning. He has never measured its size but estimates it to be about 8,000 to 10,000 square feet. He did count the nails that he has hammered into the wood — 258,000, give or take a few hundred. And he guesses he has sunk about $12,000 into the project.
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“God used my hands to put every piece in place, but I had a lot of help,” said the 56-year-old landscape architect. He’s a country boy but lives in town and compares himself to Job of the Old Testament. His pale blue Paul Newman-like eyes beam and he wears an easy smile on his tanned face.

“I’ve always proclaimed it to be the world’s largest treehouse, and no one has ever challenged it,” Burgess said.

The treehouse is topped by a chime tower weighing 5,700 pounds; the chimes were fashioned from 10 oxygen acetylene bottles. But today, it is the sound of a hammer echoing from above where 12-year-old Donathan Conley of Crossville nails license plates to a wall.

“It’s a real peaceful place. You can go out there and have a good time,” said Conley, who maintains his own room in the treehouse where he has spent the night on several occasions. “I helped Horace build it. I cut up lumber and hauled it up the steps.”

In the summer time, this house always basks in the shade. A homemade sign at the bottom reads: “Welcome friends.”

While driving to Nashville on a warm summer day, Dana Arwood and three friends from Knoxville stop to explore the treehouse. Approximately 400 to 500 folks visit weekly, most of them from out of state and most of them by word of mouth. Arwood heard about the place from a cousin.

“It’s pretty incredible. He used everyday stuff and made something wonderful,” she says.

Up the enclosed spiral staircase to the first fork in the oak, Burgess says, “This is a praise tree” because the two limbs spread out like a preacher raising arms toward heaven. Scattered about various floors, about a dozen tiny brass plates hold the names of people important in the builder’s life.

A sanctuary with pews pushed to the side takes up the third floor and also doubles as a basketball court at 22 feet above terra firma. Sunlight floods through a Plexiglas skylight about 29 feet above the sanctuary into this open room that contains a homemade cross, altar and podium.

Burgess calls the altar, a cedar stump, “the old rugged altar. You can sit yourself down and get over it under the cross.” Sure enough, the altar rests against a 16-foot-high cross.

The treehouse church with all of its elements came to Burgess in a vision from God when he was “wide awake” and lasted for only four seconds. But the instructions were clear.

“It had the basketball court in the sanctuary. I saw it like a slide show, and it showed me the podium, which rises like four crosses, two for the thieves, one for Christ, and the other cross is the one we all must bear individually,” he said.

The fourth floor overlooks the sanctuary and boasts a VIP section, an antique curved church pew overlooking the sanctuary that Burgess claims is “the best seat in the house.” This floor also holds a choir loft and a stained-glass picture window of Jesus.

Though an ordained minister, Burgess is more of a self-proclaimed pastor in the woods.

“There’s people that God sends me that church houses wouldn’t even let in,” he said.

One of those souls resided in the treehouse for three years and earned the nickname “the keeper of the treehouse.”

After the man’s death, Burgess threw some of his friend’s ashes from the top and buried the rest at the foot of the tree.

For his 11th wedding anniversary, Burgess built his wife “the only penthouse in Cumberland County.” The couple celebrated by spending the night there on the seventh floor.

“I kinda feel like Noah’s wife when Noah built the ark,” said Janet Burgess, Horace’s wife of 17 years. “It’s definitely the spirit of the Lord working in him.”

As his project rose to the sky, Burgess said it took 4½ years before he could see anything but trees.

But today, if you make it to the top deck, the trees are 20 feet below and can’t obscure the view of Cumberland County all around.

From this vantage point and others, visitors can see a garden where Burgess has used daffodils, irises, narcissus, gladiolas and wild daisies to spell out the letters J-E-S-U-S.

“The whole message of the thing is if you come to see the site and climb to the top, you’ll see Jesus in the garden, and the preacher didn’t have to say a word,” Burgess says, smiling broadly.





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Posted By: Jerome Aronson

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11 Responses to “97 foot treehouse”

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  3. While visiting Fairfield Glade and sitting in the whirlpool next to the swimming pool, we heard about this magnificent treehouse. Since I have 3 boys, they thought they would definitely enjoy climbing all over it. The workmanship that he put into the treehouse was definitely impressive. Also being a born-again Christian, I was very impressed with the work that he spent building this treehouse. I even thought that he could even someday let it be a place to help the homeless especially between the months of March to October as they are not too cold and with fans could be comfortable. If someone were there during the day, I believe that people who enter who are non-believers could be lead to the Lord as a result of visiting this treehouse.
    After we visited it, I told many other people that I ran into with children. Upon returning home, I plan on telling many others especially other christians as a site they should consider visiting when they are traveling through TN.

    Cindy on 05 Aug 2008 at 1:33 am
  4. Can you give me phone number so I can bring my grandson to see the tree

    Verona on 18 Nov 2008 at 11:31 am
  5. I have been to this glorious tree house… It is a God sent work of art..!!! I soooo enjoyed it and can’t wait to go again…., I do believe I will be going this June to see the marvelous works of God in this tree house….ALL should go & feel the peace there..!!!!!
    Sincerely, Ms. Spaugh

    DeeDee Spaugh on 21 Apr 2009 at 6:49 am
  6. I live in Western Tennessee. I was wondering if someone could send me directions to the treehouse. I surely would like to see it. I need an address or location. Thank you very much. Can’t wait to go see the treehouse.

    Ryan Hutchinson on 23 Oct 2009 at 8:38 am
  7. God is so amazing…………..thank you for listening Brother 🙂 God has truly blessed the work of your hands. I have NO DOUBT your King and friend smiles each time he thinks of you and is impressed by your God-given ability to create such a magnificent structure! He has some land set aside for you in heaven to build us all one there too 🙂

    God Bless

    Norman Soren Jr on 29 Oct 2009 at 8:18 am
  8. I visited this incredible treehouse just last weekend and it is truly amazing. So much work and creativity went into building this “house”. It seems to go on forever. I climbed to the top and did see J-E-S-U-S just as the comment above states. The four story swing is pretty awesome too. Great place to visit and a fun way to get a good workout.

    Thanks and God Bless to Mr. Burgess and his family

    T Black on 24 Oct 2010 at 3:23 pm
  9. I just recently visited the treehouse. It was amazing….seeing the handywork that was very carefully put into it was trully breathtaking. It is a true witness that will touch the hearts of many!

    Paula on 27 Nov 2010 at 9:06 am
  10. Awesome!!! Amazing!!! On it’s own it is awesome and amazing (I want to see it). There’s also another weird twist for me, besides the fact that my ex in-laws live in Crossville. I went through a divorce in “89 and after that when I would be traveling with my young daughters I would make up stories off the top of my head to keep them entertained as we traveled. They always loved the stories and told me I should write them down so somewhere in the mid “90’s I wrote the first in a series. It was about the friendship of a five yr old boy and an old Christian man named Kermis, who built a large beautiful treehouse that he lived in. Just today (4/19/11) I found out about Mr Burgess and his treehouse. His treehouse is far beyond anything even my creative mind had imagined. Just thought the coincidence was interesting and I’d love to see it. I did put my story on Youtube and you can see it at my Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/daphriend
    Look for the story titled Kermis Dawking.

    Dave Phillips on 19 Apr 2011 at 5:50 pm
  11. well everyone thats not heard,the treehouse has been closed due to a complaint to the fire marshall that it was unsafe,what a load of crap! some jealous idiot i think.

    rick baldwin on 12 Sep 2012 at 1:29 pm

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