Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Published on Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Case for Building a Better Treehouse

Kids in treehouseWhen I was 13, my friends Markie, Ted and I decided to build a clubhouse. We didn’t have any money or real know-how, but there was a construction site about a block from our houses, and the collective lunacy of three 13-year old minds went to work. We scavenged wood and other materials and very crudely, constructed a 7’ cube complete with a swinging door, roof and floor.


We ran a cord with a light fixture from my buddy’s house to the corner of his yard where our clubhouse had found its home. We added a radio, some patio furniture pads, settled in and hung out.


Boy with wagonTwo days later, the old man whose yard backed up to the clubhouse told us to get rid of that “pile of junk” or he was going to call the city and complain. My buddy’s parents agreed and said it had to be moved or dismantled. I volunteered my yard as the new home, so we tried to lift the clubhouse up onto a couple of wagons, roll it down the street and up the driveway.


No go. After getting part of the structure on one of the wagons, it caught a stiff wind, toppled on its side and collapsed into a pile of pressboard, ill-attached 2x4s and exposed nails. Pieces were picked up and tossed back into the construction dumpster, whence it all came. The lesson learned from this experience? Any future attempts to build a structure like this would involve trade school. In other words, if you want it done right, make sure you know how to do it or find someone who can.


Shelley and I recently spent some time in Tennessee, hiking the Smokies and visiting a few state parks. One local told us we could not miss out on visiting one of the best kept secrets in the area, the “Minister’s Treehouse”.


Minister's TreehouseThe Minister’s Treehouse is a giant treehouse, some say the largest in the world, built by a man of the cloth, Horace Burgess, who claimed he was directed by God to build it. It wasn’t far, so we headed out to find Burgess’s treehouse.


What we found was this monstrosity of a treehouse built several stories into the air around a couple of tall trees. The county had closed it down because of safety issues (which became very apparent). We had to climb a fence to get onto the property. Yes, we were breaking the law but were assured that “everyone does it and the police don’t care”. We weren’t the only ones there so I agreed to go in.


Wooden pewsIt definitely was not built with ADA compliance or building codes in mind. Staircases, floors and railings, while seemingly sturdy, were misaligned, crooked or not level at all. Since a minister built it, there were pews for seating, carved statues and crosses and even a stained glass window.


There were lawn chairs and other miscellaneous furnishings that local teens probably dragged in for parties. I decided not to sit on anything, or join the ranks of thousands by carving my name in any of the exposed wood.


After about ten minutes of investigating, I remembered my experience watching that clubhouse collapse over 50 years ago, and became a bit uncomfortable. I felt the wind whipping through the upper floor we happened to be on. Gulp. Was the inevitable collapse coming anytime soon?


Treehouse“Let’s get out of here,” I insisted. I was hoping that the minister had better carpentry skills than my pre-teen friends and I had.


Once outside, I did thank God and vowed not to return inside unless my brother-in-law, Pete, the best carpenter I know, had his way with this monstrosity. I was reminded that if you do want something done/built right, either learn how to do it or find someone who can.


We climbed over the fence and headed back to the interstate. Whew!


With all this in mind, when it comes to designing, building or assembling structures that are used for trade shows or other marketing and sales events, it is so important to involve professionals (be it yourself, colleagues or experienced vendor/partners) who are experienced at doing what needs to be done. Please, do your homework, investigate and ask questions.


Trade show displayWhile it is tempting to eliminate steps or save what may seem like big bucks at the time, like my clubhouse experience and the Minister’s Treehouse, you don’t want your structure to collapse in the wind or get shut out of a show because it doesn’t meet structural, electrical or IAEE Standards.


If you don’t believe me, just check with Markie, Ted and the well-intentioned, Reverend Horace Burgess.


Steve Moskal

Dennis in Treehouse











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Steve Moskal
Steve Moskal

Steve Moskal

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Full biography

Steve’s journey in the trade show and event world started in 1983 with one of the original Nomadic Display sales organizations in North America. In 1994, he co-founded Prairie Display/Chicago.

Steve was an Allied Board Member of TSEA (Trade Show Exhibitors Association) from 2007 to 2011 and recipient of the TSEA President’s Award in 2009. He also served as Financial Chair of the Midwest Exhibit and Event Professionals (formerly the Chicago chapter of TSEA) and as a commissioner with the Elmhurst Economic Development Commission from 2011 to 2016. Currently he is Vice President of Education for the Addison/Elmhurst, IL Toastmasters Club.

When not working with customers and co-workers at Prairie, you can find him trying to spend more time biking and pursuing other creative endeavors. Steve lives in Oak Brook, IL with his beautiful and equally understanding wife of 26 years, Shelley.

Steve is a graduate of Northern Illinois University, with a B.A. in Journalism and a Fine Arts minor.


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