Wednesday, January 13, 2010

On the Subject of Treehouses

Posted By on Wed, Jan 13, 2010 at 1:12 AM

click to enlarge Nola Tree house

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I hope Gambit readers enjoyed this week's cover story on the NOLA Art Houses' tree house installation, the location of many a wild, good time. In case you were wondering about the history of tree houses, here's some extra work I put in just for you:

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Tree houses saw a surge in the United States in the mid-1990s but have been in existence for as long as humans have been able to build shelter. Human ancestors built their homes in trees keep safe from predators and the elements, a practice still in use by the remote Korowai tribe in Irian Jaya (former Dutch New Guinea) to protect themselves from head hunters.

In terms of recreational use, historians have uncovered reports that the Roman Emperor Caligula held at least one tree house party in the first century A.D. – though his only had enough room for 15 guests. The Roman influence extended to England, where residents in Shropshire lay claim to the oldest standing tree house located at Pitchford Hall. Winston Churchill, who built one for his three eldest children at his home in Chartwell, continued the practice into the 20th century. The French took the tree house custom and mixed it with food and, in 1848, the town of Plessis-Robison opened tree restaurants inspired by the Swiss Family Robinson (though they were mistakenly named after Robinson Crusoe).

The United States is home to nine tree house building companies – with one making tree houses that comply with the American with Disabilities Act – all of which are located north of the Mason-Dixon. In Oregon, Out ‘n’ About outfitters boasts a “tree house treesort”, an actual bed and breakfast consisting entirely of tree houses.

Despite the abundance of strong, large oak trees that would be perfect for tree houses, a yearly hurricane season has all but completely discouraged building tree houses in Louisiana. The lone exception – a Northshore tree house donated to the City of Mandeville – was torn down back in September of 2009 because of the damage it sustained during hurricane Katrina.

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