Horace Burgess, a local minister and landscape architect in Crossville, constructed a small treehouse for his son, Kevin, in 1986. 9 The hideaway soon grew into a four-level, six-room home encompassing 2,300 square-feet, towering 50-feet above the ground and supported by two white oak trees and a few pines. The project cost about $3,000, with most of the wood coming from scraps from construction sites where he worked at and from neighbors.
The inspiration to build a more massive treehouse came to Burgess as he laid in bed in 1993. 2 11 Burgess, who had been going through a rough patch in life, stated that God had shown him the plans of the treehouse, which included art on the wall and an elevator.
“If you build a tree house, I’ll see that you never run out of material.” 1
Over the period of twelve years, Burgess erected a 97-foot-tall treehouse. 3 11 It was supported by an 80-foot-tall white oak tree and 15 other trees, 258,000 nails driven by a nail gun, and 500 penny nails driven by hand. 2 A belfry contained ten bells that were crafted out of ten oxygen-acetylene canisters weighing 5,700 pounds. 11 The treehouse doubled as a church where Burgess officiated 23 weddings. 2 When not used for service, the sanctuary doubled as a basketball court. 4 11
Because of its unique construction and its unofficial status as the world’s largest treehouse, Burgess’ wooden contraption became a tourist attraction 5 attracting up to 1,000 visitors per week. 10
“You’re above all your situations, circumstances, for a moment. Your eyes can see over all the stuff that’s under you.”
– Horace Burgess 2
On August 7, 2012, a state fire marshal performed an inspection on Burgess’ treehouse and ordered it closed as a safety precaution at the end of the month. 10 The state noted that it was 60 feet over code, did not have a fire alarm or sprinkler system and was not designed by a licensed architect. 2 6 7 10
In March 2018, the treehouse and its accompanying 139 acres of land were put up for sale with an asking price of $1.5 million. 12 On October 22, 2019, the treehouse and its supporting trees were burned to the ground with no cause determined. 7 8 Because of the all-wood construction, the inferno lasted just 15 minutes.
- Atlas Obscura. “World’s Largest Treehouse, Built by Divine Inspiration.” Slate, 11 Jun. 2013.
- Rueb, Emily S. “World’s Largest Treehouse Burns to the Ground.” New York Times, 26 Oct. 2019.
- Beck, Ken. “Divine vision inspired a 97-foot treehouse.” Tennessean [Nashville], 29 Jul. 2007.
- Philby, Charlotte. “The lure of treehouses.” Independent, 18 Mar. 2009.
- Roberts, Christine. “Horace Burgess’ Guinness-record, 10-story ‘Minister’s Treehouse’ built by Tennessean after God told him ‘I will get you all the supplies’.” New York Daily News, 19 Jun. 2012.
- “Crossville Treehouse Declared Hazard By State.” Associated Press, 5 Sept. 2012.
- “Famous Minister’s Treehouse in Crossville destroyed after burning to the ground.” WBIR, 23 Oct. 2019.
- Lewis. Sophie. “World’s largest treehouse burns to the ground in Tennessee.” CBS News, 23 Oct. 2019.
- “Small treehouse hideaway turns into quite a house.” Johnson City Press, 11 Jun. 1986, p. 21.
- Coleman, Lance. “Fire marshal shuts down huge Crossville treehouse.” Tennessean [Nashville], 6 Sept. 2012, p. B3.
- Beck, Ken. “Crossville man builds 97-foot treehouse in oak.” Jackson Sun, 29 Jul. 2007, p. 3D.
- “Famous Crossville Treehouse and Land Its on for Sale.” 1057News.com, 28 Mar. 2018.