CROSSVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — While only ashes remain of the Tennessee landmark known as the Minister’s Treehouse, the memories from its many visitors live on.
“When you first walk up, you’re like, ‘this is the biggest tree house I have ever seen in my life,” said Iona Cunningham about what used to be touted as the world’s largest treehouse.
It was like a tree mansion, once standing 100 feet tall. “It clears the trees. You cannot even see the top of it,” she said.
Inside are spiral staircases, a sanctuary, a choir loft, rooms, hallways, and balconies.
“It would take probably a couple of hours just to get through it. We would spend so much time there, and we still didn’t see everything we needed to see, its absolutely massive,” Cunningham remembered.
Cunningham grew up just down the road from the well-known attraction.
“It was kind of a childhood rite of passage to go to it. If you live in Crossville everybody knows about this treehouse,” she said.
The legend of the treehouse skyrocketed and brought visitors from all over to the area.
“You would hear people from out of state coming to see this treehouse, and you would think to yourself, ‘Hmm…is it really that cool?'”
Cunningham continued, “Once it burned down to see all of these people come together, you’re like, ‘Wow, it really was a big deal.’ It’s awesome to see it reach people from different countries.”
The treehouse closed to the public in 2012 due to safety concerns, according to the State Fire Marshall.
In 2019, the massive structure intertwined between seven trees burned to the ground in a matter of minutes.
“It was devastation. This was such a big part of everybody’s childhood in the neighborhood a lot of us couldn’t believe it was truth; we were still expecting to drive down that road and see it, and to know it’s gone, its very heartbreaking,” Cunningham said.
The treehouse was built by one person – a minister to be exact.
“It was just mind-blowing to know that someone did this with their bare hands and built it from the ground up,” she said.
Minister Horace Burgess had the idea to build it in the early 1990s. When he ran out of lumber, he said he turned to God in hopes of a miracle.
While the cause of the fire is still undetermined, Cunningham said she’s thankful for the years with this beloved Tennessee treasure. “It’s sad that it burned down, but at least I can say that I have those memories to hold on to.”