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crossville, tennessee: the minister's tree house

2010-11-12 - 8:35 a.m.

all photos � 2010 by elaine radford

Yeah, so, the Minister's Tree House. In my book, a treehouse occurs when somebody has a big ole tree and they build a structure off the ground, in that tree, but I don't have a direct line to the Good Lord, so maybe a treehouse is actually when you nail some boards to a tree and it gets out of hand and pretty soon you have an entire "house" the size of a large condominium apartment building, complete with a chapel, complete with a choir loft, complete with a bell tower, inside.

It's large. Did I say that it was large? Well, I can't get the whole thing in the photograph. Check out the picture up top. That's Roger up there posing on one of the many and countless balconies, but you can't see his face because, well, the whole thing is just a little too large. As we learned from the Gothic architects of old Europe, God thinks BIG when it comes to his places of worship. Those creepy strip mall places in metal buildings where you strongly suspect all the cash is going to put gold faucets in the minister's doghouse and none is actually going to beautify the house of the Lord, which looks suspiciously like a modern warehouse? You don't have to worry about that kind of nonsense in Crossville, Tennessee. Oh, sure, there is a donation box, but nobody's obnoxious about it, and the dog isn't going to be enjoying any gold fittings any time soon. I have a feeling that the good Reverend took that part of the Bible seriously, where they said about the stone that the builder refused...holy heck, he seems to have items in his work that the landfill refused...

Indeed, it seems that part of the vision included God's promise that if he built it, then God would provide the material. As you can see, He did -- it's all built of scrap/salvaged lumber. I would love to know how God explained it to the zoning commission, tee hee.

Some photos no longer available online The above photo shows one of the staircases, the main entrance, where a hand-scribbled sign invites you to explore at your own risk. The owner hasn't yet got around to making much investment in insulation or interior walls and/or flooring, so I would take that sign seriously and watch your step. If you're the kind who trips and falls on things, better just back away now, because I somehow wouldn't expect the Good Lord to be good for any insurance claims. But if you enjoy a good climb -- and who doesn't on a beautiful fall day like this one? -- then come on inside and check it out. We eventually realized that we would never find all of the rooms.

> I went almost to the top, but I didn't feel inclined to do the ladder so that I could enter the actual bell tower and start ringing the bell. I got most of the way, though, so I had some great views of the beautiful red trees and also of the rather eccentric mowing job near the parking lot.

I have no idea if the field was fallow for autumn, or if it is mowed in the name of Jesus at all times of the year.

A vision would have to be a pretty puny vision, if it had neglected to mention the all-important spiral staircase. I don't even want to know where he got some of the wood for this project but, strangely enough, the stairs seem very safe and very solid.

There is unfinished business all over the place. The tree house is in no way a completed job. There are rooms and rooms and many and many a room, following, I suppose, the suggestion that "In my Father's house, there are many mansions." And we're not talking little bitty mansions either. In THIS house, there are probably entire MacMansions lurking in there. They just need a little finishing.

I get the idea that much of the graffiti was added by vulgar tourists. It seems that the place must have been, at least for awhile, a popular "get high" place for the local bad eggs. However, some of the graffiti has a more pious note, such as the scribble advising us the devil is a "looser.".

Contrary person that I am, I couldn't help thinking, "Devil is a looser? Read your dictionary, my friend!" But, hell, who has time, when they're busy building an entire religious community complete with everything down to the chapel and bell tower.

How to Get There: You can ask at the Crossville Chamber of Commerce and they'll give you the telephone number of the owner, Horace Burgess, if you want to call ahead and be sure the gate is open. At the time of our visit, he said, "It's always open, come on down," and I think he's around pretty often, working on the endless additions, but it's always nice to check, especially if you're going out of your way. Take Interstate 40 exit 320 -- the Crossville/Genesis Street exit. You'll be looking to go right on Cook Road almost right away. There's a Stonehaus Winery there, with a tasting room and a restaurant, in addition to a small field of vines on what will be the left side of the road, and a little later, you'll pass a college on your right, so you'll know you're going the right way. Look for a small road that will be on your left, called Beehive Lane. Go all the way down Beehive Lane until it ends, even when it turns to gravel. Don't worry. It's just a rural road, it's not Costa Rica backwoods bad or anything, any car can make it, you don't have to drive a Toyota Corolla station wagon with dreams of climbing mountains in the Bolivian highlands...

By the way, if you like it, in addition to dropping any donations you care to make in the box provided near the door, I think it might be a nice gesture to spend some money in Crossville, so that other businesses in the area also benefit. After all, a 10,000-plus square foot structure built from scrap lumber just seems like the kind of thing that sometimes a small-minded busybody decides should be torn down. So it's a thought that it might be good if locals see some financial benefit. We did eat in the nearby restaurant and indulge in tasting/buying some wine, tee hee.

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