The journey began when a friend of mine passed away and willed me the deed to a small tract of land on Lackawanna Plaza in Montclair, NJ. The plot was basically useless for conventional building. The measurements were too small for a significant-sized structure and it wasn't much to look at, but there was a large tree smack dab in the middle of the property.

My friends and family advised me to get rid of the land, and I was even offered money by a real estate firm who was busy developing the downtown area. Out of respect for my friend, I wasn't eager to part with the property. Instead, I planted a garden in her memory and spent last summer watching it grow.

About this time, the economy decided to plummet. Although I have worked my whole life, I was laid off and found it impossible to obtain a new job. Unemployment soon ran out, and I found myself behind on the rent. Out of desperation, I grudgingly decided to sell the garden.

While showing the plot of land to the real estate agent, she made a comment that it was too bad the property wasn't big enough for a building. Off the top of my head I told her, "Well, the new owners could always build a tree house."

We both laughed at the idea, but as I walked to my apartment, from which I was about to be evicted, I began to think it over in a serious manner.

Luckily, I hadn't signed any contracts towards the sale, and the property was still legally mine. By the time I got home, I had made up my mind. I called the realtor and canceled the deal. That night I stayed up until 3:00 in the morning, planning and designing my new home.

In storage at my parents’ house, I happened to have a large supply of prefabricated, virgin-white birch poles, which were left over from another creation of mine. There were two pallets worth, which wasn’t enough to complete the job, but suitable for a start.

The first project was ascending the tree and constructing a base platform at the crux of the branches. I have never been good with heights, but the soft earth of the garden and the clover patch below gave me confidence as I moved about the canopy. Incidentally, I never fell once during the entire construction of the tree house.

With the platform solidly in place, I fabricated a support structure and hung the rope ladder, which I had custom-braided and strung with birch planks. This ladder was such a success that it encouraged me further. Next, I made a set of stairs conforming to the natural slope of the tree. A large platform was arranged at the top, and construction of the house proper began in earnest.


Soon a round frame began to form, sprouting in a radius around the trunk. Once the flooring was secure, I built a permanent ladder, and the first traces of a dwelling began to emerge from the thin air surrounding the upper branches.

It didn’t take long for the neighbors to notice what I was doing. I found myself yelling down friendly explanations to the curious gawkers below. It was during one of these interactions that I was able to obtain, at a seriously reduced price, an ample stock of white birch poles to complete my construction. A neighbor of mine, who runs the local dollar store, recognized my materials and informed me that he had an abundance of white birch collecting dust in his storage area. I happily took these off his hands, spending the last of my savings in the process.

With this sudden abundance of birch poles, my ambitions, which were small at the start, began to expand. With the completion of the gazebo, I came to envision a much larger structure, comprised of two small buildings supported by the other branch of the tree. Construction of these enclosures was completed on the ground and, through much toil and considerable personal risk; I built a platform in the tree measured perfectly to receive them.

Getting the houses up the tree wasn’t easy, but through hard work and the application of weights and levers, brainpower overcame gravity. After a bridge was constructed between the gazebo and the houses, the structure was almost livable. By this time I was very comfortable up high and barely noticed the lack of guardrails throughout. Potential guests, however, were wary about wandering past even the first platform. I set about to remedy this and, it was during work on the handrails, that I got the idea to build even higher.

Since the roof of the gazebo had a shallow pitch, it was a shame it couldn’t be put to good use. Diverted from my task, I set about building a small platform and ladder made of birch. This accomplished, I gained access to the roof and began work on a set of spiral steps, which were soon spinning up the tree. This was by far the most technical aspect of the construction and took the longest amount of time to complete.

Once the spiral staircase was solid, I fabricated a small platform at the top. With the aid of a stout rope, I hauled the crow’s nest from its staging area in the garden to the very heights of the tree. With the barrel-shaped lookout swinging dangerously in the wind, I ran a strong wire through a borehole in the branch. Wrapping this wire taut around the tree, I then attached it to the roof of the crow’s nest.

The lookout hung suspended at exactly the level of the platform. It was with ease that I swung it towards me and secured it to the structure. Once all was in place, the rope was removed, and the taut wire wholly supported the nest. This support proved highly efficient and, coupled with the stability of the circular stairs, the crow’s nest was as solid as the rest of the structure, which is to say, like a rock.

During this period of creativity on my part, I admit that I completely lost track of reality. Every ounce of energy I possessed was focused on the tree house. My job search, monetary needs and outstanding debts were put completely to the wayside so my dream home could be built. Once the crow’s nest was complete and the jobsite cleaned up, my hands were again idle. Without the distraction of work, I found it hard to ignore the hunger pangs. My belly was grumbling, and I didn’t even have enough money for a meal.

This wouldn’t have been so bad on its own, but I was suddenly hit with a barrage of summonses from the township of Montclair. You could call me ignorant or naïve - both would be appropriate accusations. My mind has always been that of a dreamer, not often taking into account such things as building permits, municipal ordinances or parking rules.

The town, fully aware of my endeavor, allowed me to build to my heart’s content, waiting until I had completed my masterpiece to burst my bubble. One morning as I was waking, two police showed up and served me with 15 building code violations, 22 fire code infractions and thousands of dollars in fines for building without permits. Next, they handed me a summons to appear in court for 25 outstanding parking tickets, which I had accumulated with my pickup truck. Then, to top it all off, that same day, I received a certified letter from the IRS detailing over $20,000 in back taxes, which I had inherited along with the property.

This was all too much on an empty stomach. I would have despaired, except my caring neighbors stepped in to assist me. The married couple from the building next-door fed me and gave me a couple of bucks for cigarettes and a six-pack. A young female neighbor, who had been watching my progress, was particularly friendly. She let me shower in her apartment and was soon hanging out with me in the tree house on a daily basis.

During this time, I was surprised, and my heart gladdened, when people from all over town came to deposit money in the “Save The Tree House” can. An anonymous Good Samaritan started the fund with a collection box nailed to the edge of my garden. In a few days, the money totaled almost $8000 and went directly to paying the back permits. With this accomplished, I was able to have the tree house fully inspected by the town. It was with much gratification that I received passing marks on every inspection. As soon as the last inspector signed off, I called the realtor and had the property reassessed as a residential zone, in order to gauge how much the tree house could be worth.

Having overcome these trials, I felt vindicated as to the quality of my design, but was still faced with thousands in fines and back taxes. Still jobless and virtually penniless, I ended up moving out of the tree house and in with my friendly neighbor, who had helped me so much. She happened to be in the process of buying her own house, and, after seeing how handy I was in the tree, she asked me to come along to help her remodel. This I readily agreed to and, with a sigh, resigned to sell my beloved home.

So that is the story of how there came to be a tree house for sale in an unlikely spot in Montclair. The story is far from over, because the house has yet to have a true tenant. Certainly a structure looming so high above the urban sprawl is appealing to many, but I am not willing to sell to just anyone. It is very important to me that the person or couple who purchases my tree house preserves its integrity.

I envision the right people to be an adventurous young couple, with stable jobs and good credit, who are looking for an unusual living experience. They would be “green” people with resources to further equip the building; utilizing solar panels, wind mills, rain collecting devices and other forms of energy conserving utilities. I would also consider selling the tree house to a company for use as an office, but it would have to meet similar ideals and agree to pursue only sustainable technology.

The third option, and perhaps my favorite, is to relocate the house, tree and all, to the grounds of the Montclair Art Museum. During construction, I took meticulous pictures of the entire building process. I envision the tree replanted on the museum’s lawn with an exhibit inside, detailing how it was made. An accompanying book could be put together with the material I have stored on my computer. I envision a step-by-step guide, illustrating the entire process of the tree house from start to finish.

I would be willing to let the museum have everything for free. All they would need to do is move the tree ¾ of a mile up Bloomfield Avenue. Certainly this would be no minor engineering feat, but, if accomplished, it would elevate my creation to the level of art, which would no doubt warrant the preservation of the structure for generations to come. This would then free me up to sell the property to the developer, while preserving my creation and the memory of my lost friend.

I am willing to consider all of these options, but one thing is for sure… I have to sell, and I have to do it fast. It is very important to get this done quickly before the bank forecloses on the property. I cannot let them take control of the tree house’s fate.

If you are any one of the above type people, please contact me immediately in regard to the purchase of this glorious tree house. I hope to hear from you soon.

check out the MLS listing