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The State vs. The Minister’s Tree House: Earthly Codes

Tree House.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.

Reverend.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.”

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The Minister's Tree House

Oct. 22, 2019: Went up in flames.

5 Responses to “The State vs. The Minister’s Tree House: Earthly Codes”

  1. Shelia Davis Says:
    June 27th, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    We live in Blount County, TN. I was watching a show with my son-in-law and your treehouse was the topic. The man that builds special treehouses was called to come help you get your treehouse up to code with the fire marshall. Has it been reopened. Please let us know because we sure want to come worship and visit with you!!!
    May God bless your ministry,
    Shelia Davis

  2. Marcia Benjamin Says:
    July 3rd, 2013 at 11:32 am

    We live in Iowa. My husband and I visited the tree house last year before it was closed. We were so in awe of what the Pastor and God had done. We planned to bring our grandkids to visit Tennessee this year to show them how much one man can do if he allows himself to be lead by God. We are heart broken that the tree house has been closed. While visiting Tennessee we did see a lot of ways that perhaps the state could provide assistance, protect or improve the living conditions of people…..but the tree house was certainly not one of them. We pray it opens quickly. May God bless you Pastor, and your ministry!

  3. Laura Says:
    July 27th, 2013 at 8:46 am

    I was so bummed to see that it was closed. I was planning a Tennessee trip this fall just to see this tree house. I like to show my kids all unique things. Is there a way to get updates to know if/when it has reopened. Maybe extreme makeover will come in and help hahaha! Best of luck! Please post the phone number so I can call also…:)

  4. Connie Says:
    August 3rd, 2013 at 10:18 am

    Is the tree house open? We have been there one time and can’t wait to come again. Please let us know when it will be open. We are anxious as others to come! Sorry this has happened.

  5. Regina Underdown Says:
    September 13th, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    I saw your Sanctuary on a TV program titled Tree Houses. I was so amazed at What God can and Will Do! Be encouraged!! God is in control! Keeping on Keeping on! Being a Blessing to all that hear your story are Blessed, see your blessing and all that have and will walk through the door’s of God’s Tree House.

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