In 2004, Tereasa Surratt and David Hernandez purchased Camp Wandawega, his childhood getaway, with the intention of preserving its old buildings and cabins. Surratt's father christened the newly-obtained property by hanging a rope swing on the giant elm located in the center of camp. Sadly, he passed away a year and a half later, and almost immediately afterwards the couple found out that their beloved tree had Dutch Elm disease. Surratt was devastated and couldn't bring herself to cut it down. Despite its disease, the tree was still strong, and it inspired them and their friends to think about using it in a big way. What resulted was an impressive three-storey treehouse that was built as a labor of love.
The tree comes through the house's deck near the ground level, and it breaks through the upper floor in three spots. At two of those points, the arms of the tree are sawed even with the floor, while the third pierces it and extends out the window. Reclaimed wood was used for much of the construction and the interior features nearly all vintage and repurposed items. Stumps of the trees were fashioned as side tables, and a hanging antler chandelier was made from old shed found at the camp.
Tom's Treehouse, as it came to be known, was completed in 2011 and built for free by Surratt's talented and generous friends. They used their combined skills of carpentry, roofing, and design to create a beautiful and touching tribute to her father.
Photo credit: t. HARRISON HILLMAN