Road trip news, rants, and ruminations by the Editors of RoadsideAmerica.com
April 8, 2013
The good news is that the Minister’s Tree House will reopen.
The bad news is that the Minister doesn’t yet know when that will be.
Always popular with visitors, the giant tree house built by minister Horace Burgess was shut down by the Tennessee state fire marshal in August 2012. Horace, since then, has worked steadily to bring the tree house into compliance with Tennessee’s building codes, even though the state admits that it has no building codes for tree houses.
Some visitors, stopping at the locked gate outside the tree house, have seen piles of scrap at the base of the tree and assumed, to their alarm, that the house was being torn down. Horace, who sounded exhausted when we spoke with him, assured us that what they saw were just old pieces that he was replacing so that the tree house can reopen.
Whenever that will be, the tree house will not be as free-spirited as before. Visitors will have to read a set of posted rules and sign a waiver indemnifying Horace if they break them (or themselves). There will be an admission fee. There will be someone on hand to ensure that the tree house does not exceed its maximum capacity, although that capacity has yet to be determined.
Horace likes to point out that the tree house had a spotless safety record even in an absence of codes and rules. He attributes that to God. “But now that Man’s messing with it,” he said, “I’m gonna have to go their way, all the way.” Horace would rather not, but he knows that he must to get the tree house open again. “I think God was sending people,” he said, “so I want to get it where He can send some more.”
The minister isn’t the only one anxious to reopen the tree house. Horace wryly placed a sign on the locked gate with the phone number of the state fire marshal. It has had its intended effect. “The last time I talked to him,” said Horace, “he was just getting inundated with calls. He said, ‘We’re gonna have to resolve this as soon as possible.'”
Horace understands that bureaucracy is slow. He’s under no illusion that the tree house will reopen as quickly as he thinks it should. All he knows for sure is that it will reopen, maybe sooner, maybe later; he just doesn’t know when. “I don’t want the tree house to just sit there,” Horace said. “It’d be a waste if people didn’t get to enjoy it. So I’m just gonna work it out so they can enjoy it, the best way I can.”
The Minister's Tree House
- Oct. 22, 2019: Went up in flames.