I was on the telephone when a freak accident happened and a projectile took the eyesight from my left eye. The doctor said I was about a half inch from not being here. Soon after, my oldest daughter had asked for a tree house after seeing one on television, and I had remembered a place I visited when I was in college that had some cool tree houses. So I got to work.
January 28, 2012, I started to build our castle themed tree house. While in construction, I went visiting my
in-laws on Long Island and we went to a museum of play with our children. We saw some car parts roughly in position of a car that kids were playing with, and the children seemed to be having a blast, so I looked at my wife, and we got the idea to put a car in the trees as a tree house.
Once these two were underway, I got thinking of my own mortality and how I would be remembered when I'm gone. I am a Mechanical Engineer by trade, and have patents and trade secrets. These will get filed away with little remembrance, but a lot of the local towns people will remember the guy with a car in the trees! That's when I realized how good the town has been to me and my family (I'm a 4th generation townie) so I wanted to give back to the community in my own special way.
My time at SUNY Geneseo allowed me to see this area in greater detail during student teaching. One of my assignment was to follow the school bus to see where my students "come from". One of my students lived in an abandoned school bus, only eating school provided breakfasts and lunches. It is rough to see anyone in this area, and in this day and age to have to go through such hardships. This is why I would like to keep this place, which is a part of my home, open and available to ANYONE who would like to enjoy the tree houses AT NO CHARGE.
My special education experience also showed me that I am fortunate to have a healthy family. This encouraged me to start to build an elevator to the tree houses, so kids who are "Ground Bound" have an opportunity to to go into the trees and experience the sway of a tree in the breeze. So I started building the "village square" (entrance deck) that would allow handicap accessibility to some of the tree houses. Other tree houses would also be connected with rope bridges.This again got me thinking, how great it was that the tree houses in my past fueled my creativity and inspired me to build.
I decided to contact my inspiration for the tree houses (Maurice Barkley in Henrietta) and invite him over for dinner. I wanted to let him know the positive result he and his tree houses had on my life. In our discussion, he said, "Joe, I am almost 80 years old and I cannot maintain my tree houses. I like what you are doing. Would you be willing to take on my tree houses?"
I was honored. We were able to save two of Mr. Barkley's tree houses with a lot of TLC (Tender Loving Care - new roofs, paint and structural fixes ) after transporting them to Geneseo. We were also able to pay tribute to two of the tree houses that were beyond repair - the Church and the Veranda - by building similar tree houses from scratch. In short order, we went from the original two tree houses to six.
Since the beginning, the tree house construction has brought people together. My family has been contributing throughout the construction process. Friends stop by and lend a hand as well. We get a lot of help from college students from SUNY Geneseo and other area universities who want to pitch in with the maintenance it takes to keep things running. The positive response that we have been receiving, and the way the tree houses bring people together, and the joy on everyone's face are some of the many outcomes that we have hoped to achieve. Life is short, so enjoy it!
We have been asked, "How do you pay for all of this?" Right now, all funding has been out of our own pockets. This is a private residence and, technically, the tree houses are the playground for our children - we just would like to invite everyone over for a play date! Tree house maintenance, tree house building, grounds keeping, safety checking, etc becomes almost overwhelming at times, and family, friends and volunteers have come over and helped lighten the load. We also like to encourage volunteers to build, create, and try something that they would like to explore.
If you would like to stop by, please get more information on our contact page.
Thank you for visiting us and please enjoy!