WORDS Dwain Hebda
IMAGES courtesy Papa Fitz Treehouse Experience
With gas prices being what they are this summer, more people are considering a staycation to enjoy the many attractions in their own Arkansas backyard. For some, that means a trip to Bentonville and its acclaimed attractions from Crystal Bridges of American Art to world-famous mountain biking trails.
And to that list of amenities, you can now add Papa Fitz Treehouse Experience, a unique lodging option from the imagination of its owner, Mike Fitzgerald.
“As a kid, I loved being up in the trees,” he says. “I’d seen a couple of treehouse master shows and we bought a piece of property that had what seemed like four perfect trees.”
Mike enlisted his fellow construction craftsmen for the project, including some specialized help from a local builder who concentrates on such projects. They helped him get the project, literally, off the ground.
“A really important part of this was the treehouse would be fully elevated by the trees and no other supports,” Mike says. “We never really had a blueprint for the treehouse. It was just drawings and in the first drawing I had the treehouse a little too big to be fully elevated.”
The resulting treehouse is a gorgeous structure stretched between tree supports, fifteen feet above the surface. The main structure includes a kitchen, living room, bathroom with walk-in shower, plus a loft bedroom. Additional sleeping space is provided via a living room Murphy bed. A deck surrounds the perimeter of the 500-square-foot house, connecting to a walk-over swinging bridge between the trees. At the end of the bridge is a covered lookout patio and rope landing, a lounge space constructed of heavy-duty rope netting.
The airborne elements of the structure are supported by massive thirty-foot wooden beams and additional steel supports. At ground level of the single lot, the property also includes an entertaining area with outdoor kitchen and a large open-air patio that abuts a swimming pool with waterfall. A pool house completes the structure, offering sleeping room for four and its own bathroom and loft.
While treehouses are not unheard of in Arkansas, many are simply houses on stilts and not actually nestled into trees themselves. As such, Mike initially got some unusual looks as the local building codes department didn’t quite know what to make of his ideas.
“We did get some strange looks at first,” he says. “Right around that time, they were dealing with tiny houses. They really didn’t have any code for them, and that’s kind of what this is, a tiny house in a tree. We had to have an engineer sign off due to the structure being supported by the trees but other than that we just went by the auxiliary dwelling codes. The project did bring out my artistic side. It was a lot of fun completing all the little details. This place truly is a work of art.”
Find Papa Fitz Treehouse Experience on Airbnb