Horace Burgess and the Ultimate Found Object Treehouse
Horace Burgess’ Found Object Tree House
Found objects make interesting materials to use in treehouse construction and in art. Whether it’s a boat for a guest bedroom or a a small submarine for a bathroom the unique quality of a found object treehouse is defined by the objects used. Perhaps the most innovated example of this type of treehouse is Horace Burgess’ masterpiece of primitive art in Tennessee. I had the privilege of talking with Horace while I was researching my book “Treehouses” and I found him to be a very engaging personality. And though Horace is well known in the treehouse community his story bears repeating for its inspiration and its vision. And I’m sure Horace would agree that anybody could do it if they are inspired and motivated to do so.
Construction was begun on his treehouse in 1993, but it is still a creative work in progress. He scavenged wood to create an intricate, eight-level structure enveloping the remnants of an old white oak. The way he tells it, some eighteen years ago, Burgess received “a mission from God.” A vision of an enormous treehouse church with almost every imaginable detail included. He estimates the construction to be eight to ten thousand square feet. He’s used approximately 258,000 nails, give or take a few hundred. It is now a destination in Crossville, Tennessee.
“This is a praise tree” to quote Burgess. Up the enclosed spiral staircase to the first fork in the oak 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.We are all the better for it.