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97-Foot Tall ‘Minister’s Treehouse’ in Tennessee Burns Down in Minutes

By Victor Westerkamp

The world’s largest treehouse, the Minister’s Treehouse in Crossville, Tennessee took 12 years to build and about 12 minutes to burn down on Oct. 22 at around 10:30 p.m.

The 97-foot, 10-story, and estimated 10,000 square feet wooden complex in Cumberland County contained 80 rooms, several terraces, a chapel with a basketball hoop, and a belfry.

It started with a vision architect-turned-minister Horace Burgess had in 1993 after receiving the divine inspiration from God, and was completely constructed of scrap wood and recycled metal.

He received the plan on how to build it, “with art on the wall and an elevator,” he said, The New York Times reported. “If you build a ministry house,” he recalled a voice saying, “you’ll never run out of material.”

So Burgess set out and started working, “A lot of times I had to stand there and let the spirit of God show me what piece to put up,” he said. He drove in 258,000 nails with a nail gun, and 500 pounds of penny nails by hand. “It took 12 years of my life,” he said.

Burgess praying
Horace Burgess praying in his treehouse in 2007. (Jae S. Lee/The Tennesseean/AP)

After its completion, it became a hotspot for tourists, scouts, and pilgrims. Burgess even officiated 23 weddings inside, but in 2012 Burgess had to shut the edifice down because the structure was deemed unsafe by the Tennessee State Fire Marshall.

Burgess sold his famed Minister’s Treehouse in 2012, whereupon it remained vacant—only vagabonds and vandals had frequented the place.

But, suddenly, last Tuesday night at about 10:30, Cumberland County firefighters were alerted to the scene.

“According to reports you could see the fire as much as 50 feet above the tree line, they said it could easily be seen from Colinx on Genesis Rd, and also while traveling down I-40,” a user of the Crossville Then and Now Facebook page commented, according to Metro.

‘Over the past 30 years the wood has seasoned very well, it is no surprise that it went up this fast. It set a record as being the Worlds Largest tree-house, now, someone else has the record, I don’t think this record will be broke anytime soon,’ the Facebook commenter added.

By the time the firefighters arrived on the scene, “there wasn’t much to do,” Cumberland County Fire Chief Trevor Kerley said, according to the New York Times.

The cause of the fire has yet to be determined. “Unless somebody comes up and tells us they seen somebody doing it, you’d probably never know what started it,” Bobby Derossett of the Cumberland County Fire Department told local WKRN news. No casualties were reported.

To Burgess, however, the incineration of his pièce de résistance came as some kind of relief. “It’s always been a pain,” he told the NY Times.