We’re sad to say that one of our Big Things To See in the USA has been shut down by the government! In Crossville, Tennessee — about an hour’s drive west in a rental car from Knoxville — you could find the World’s Largest Treehouse at 364 Beehive Lane!
Unfortunately, due to an August 2012 decision of Mr. Christopher Bainbridge, director of codes enforcement for the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s office, this Big Treehouse that was once free and open to the public now has a locked gate and a sign telling visitors that they have to turn back.
But we still want to tell you about this remarkable building and show you some cool photographs, even though it is currently closed to the public!
Minister Horace Burgess was inspired by his love of God to build the giant tree house in 1993, and over a period of almost 20 years, he crafted the amazing building — which has pews and a sanctuary that can hold 50 people — as both a church and as a monument to his personal faith. Today, this Big Building is 97 feet tall and is supported by 7 trees, including a living white oak tree that is 80 feet tall with a 12-foot diameter at its base! Minister Burgess slowly added to the World’s Largest Treehouse, over time spending $12,000 on its construction. Its 5 stories contain 80 rooms, including the church and its working bell tower. (The “bells” are actually oxygen acetylene bottles that chime every day.)
The treehouse is God’s house, according to Minister Burgess, and everyone was welcome. Across from it, the grass in a large field is cut in a pattern to spell out the name “Jesus”. Before its closure in 2012, it attracted almost 100 visitors per day. The gates to the Big Treehouse have been locked since a letter was sent to Burgess, ordering the building to be closed to the public immediately “due to safety concerns”. An online petition started by Crossville resident Natosha Carson asking Cumberland County and the Tennessee Fire Marshal’s Office to reopen the building to the public gathered over 2,500 signatures in just a few weeks — but so far, it remains closed.
If and when it reopens, here’s how you get to the World’s Largest Treehouse! Drive your rental car down Interstate 40 west from Knoxville (or east from Nashville) and take exit 320. Then, drive north on Highway 298 and turn right on Cook Road. After a mile, the road takes a sharp right, but you need to turn left onto Beehive Lane. You’re way out in the gorgeous Tennessee countryside, and the pavement ends, but keep driving your trusty car rental onto the dirt and gravel. You’ll find the Big Treehouse on the right.
The Minister's Treehouse
Photos by Sean B. Jack