Divine Intervention

World's largest treehouse burns down in minutes

The 10-story treehouse had over 10,000 square foot of floorspace before it burned to the ground this week. (Roger Smith)

It took just 15 minutes for a fire to reduce a ten-story treehouse, the world’s largest, to ashes. Following an apparent vision from god, minister Horace Burgess began to build the 97-foot-tall complex in Crossville, Tennessee, in 1993. The Minister’s Treehouse, as it was known, quickly became a tourist destination and was regularly used for church services and, according to a 2009 article in The Independent, as a basketball court. However, in 2012 the structure was closed to the public when local authorities decided it didn’t meet fire standards; perhaps luckily, as no one was injured in Tuesday’s fire. (According to Atlas Obscura, Burgess claimed that there were no building codes for treehouses. The Tennessee Fire Marshall disagreed.)

Burgess reported to Atlas Obscura in 2013 that god had told him, “If you build a treehouse, I’ll see that you never run out of material,” and soon people began bringing him scrap lumber to build the elaborate structure atop an 80-foot-tall oak tree, with six other trees offering additional support. Each floor was wrapped with a deck, and before officials closed the treehouse, it was open to anyone. It was, after all, god’s house.

The cause of the fire is unclear, and according to a fire department spokesperson may remain so. “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.

The Minister’s Treehouse is hardly the first divinely-inspired building to go up in flames; last year a fire damaged Wadsworth, Illinois’s, 17,000-square-foot golden pyramid. The owners hope to rebuild an even bigger “luxury home [and] monument to the past” in its place. It was not immediately clear what the fate of the Minister’s Treehouse might be, as the pyramid left behind more salvageable remains.

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