As he tells the story, in 1993, Minister Horace Burgess was praying when god told him, “If you build a tree house, I’ll see that you never run out of material.” Inspired by this vision of god, the quiet minister set out to build the largest treehouse in the world
Located just outside of Crossville, Tennessee, the 97-foot-tall tree house and church is supported by a still-living 80-foot-tall white oak tree with a 12-foot diameter base, relying on six other oaks for support.
For fourteen years, Minister Burgess has been adding to the tree house, spending only $12,000 and never running out of material. Over that time, the treehouse has grown to truly monumental proportions, and the Minister may have already achieved his goal of building the world’s largest treehouse. Currently, his treehouse is 90 feet tall, said to contain 80 rooms, and stretch up to five stories, complete with a church and a bell tower. The bell tower at the top of the treehouse is equipped with oxygen acetylene bottles that, repurposed as bells, chime daily.
In true southern style, every story is fully surrounded by a deck. And there are no “Private Property,” “Stay Off the Grass,” or “No Climbing” signs: Burgess say the treehouse is god’s house and everyone is welcome.
To that end, there are only two signs to be found: “Welcome” and “No Smoking” which, for a house of timber, makes sense. Despite some trouble with vandals, the Minister kept the treehouse open and in fantastic and ever-improving condition. From the top — which one must be rather brave to attempt climbing to — one can see the word “Jesus” spelled out in flora on a nearby field.
Unfortunately, the Tennessee Fire Marshall has closed down the treehouse until further notice, despite Burgess’ insistence that there are no building codes for treehouses.
Update October 2019: Sadly, the treehouse was destroyed in a fire.
The Atlas Obscura Podcast is a short, daily celebration of all the world’s strange and wondrous places. Check out this episode about Minister’s Treehouse.
Know Before You Go
I-40 exit 320, turn north onto Hwy 298 and then a quick right onto Cook Rd. Follow about 1/2 mile and as the road takes a sharp right, instead make a sharp left onto Beehive Lane. Continue about 1/4 mile and you will be in front of the treehouse.