Fearing boredom during retirement, man builds treehouse with electricity, water, cable TV, rooftop patio, built-in cabinets, a wet bar and a 65-foot-long drawbridge connecting it to his home. Great photos.
When he’s relaxing in a plastic chair nearly 40 feet in the air, watching the treetops shimmy around him in the barest of summer breezes, Jack Barnhart often finds his thoughts wandering to “The Old Man and the Sea.”
Huge projects tackled late in life tend to have that effect.
The Pleasant Hill man was a not-so-old 61 when he went looking for one last big challenge.
Just retired from his third career as a social worker (he’d also been a real estate salesman and college theater producer), he had this fear that without work to drive him, he might end up like one of those senior guys he often saw sitting at the mall with nothing to do.
He needed his own version of Ernest Hemingway’s catch of a lifetime.
He found it not in an oversized marlin but in a tree – a 100-year-old honey locust with a 40-inch diameter located in a far corner of his back yard.
An accomplished woodworker, Barnhart dreamed of building a treehouse – but not one of the scrapped-together versions the word conjures up in most people’s minds.
The cozy little cottage he was envisioning would put the Swiss Family Robinson to shame, with two staircases, built-in closets and cabinets, a wet bar, high-quality insulated windows, water and electricity, cable TV and a rooftop patio – not to mention table service for six.
And instead of climbing a ladder from the ground, his treehouse would be accessible by a soaring footbridge, connected to the deck of his home some 65 feet away across a ravine.
It was a level of difficulty that would keep Barnhart grappling with his tree through five years of labor, some $12,000 to $15,000 in materials and many harrowing moments on ladders.
“It would have been difficult to build this thing on the ground, let alone in a tree,” he said with obvious relish. “There were times I was nearly hanging by my toenails trying to get the right angle to drive a nail.”
Most treehouses are assembled in an afternoon, a weekend or at the extreme, over a single summer.
It took Barnhart a year just to build the framework for his.