Home Sweet Treehouse
September 23rd, 2015 by Lori Tobias
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This treehouse is the full-time home of Susan Gallagher of Neskowin, Oregon. It was featured on the Animal Planet television show “Treehouse Masters.” Left, Susan discusses life in a treehouse with “Treehouse Masters” host Pete Nelson. Photos courtesy of Animal Planet

Susan Gallagher didn’t grow up with treehouses, but that didn’t stop her from shimmying up maples, oaks and pines as a child. Her fondness for the forest has stayed with her all the years since.

“I’ve always been in love with the forest,” says Susan. “I’ve always liked walking around in them. I find them very relaxing.”

When she learned there are lodging accommodations that are actually treehouses, she was more than just a bit intrigued. Susan began to do some research. She even attended a treehouse building workshop. And yet, until a few months ago, she had never spent a single night in one.

Susan, 60, grew up in Altoona, Pennsylvania, and went on to establish a career in the telecommunications industry. Her job took her all over the country, including Oregon.

“I decided to drive down the coast one day and instantly fell in love with it,” Susan says. “I decided this is where I would retire.”

After searching much of the Oregon Coast, she found four acres in Neskowin, a small village in southern Tillamook County boasting both oceanfront beaches and thick, lush forests. That was in 2006, when Susan still assumed she would build a traditional house on the property.

Four years later, she learned of the treehouse building workshop put on by Pete Nelson, owner of Nelson Treehouse and Supply, and host of Animal Planet’s popular television series “Treehouse Masters.”

“When I was attending Pete’s treehouse workshop, I asked if he would be willing to take a look at my land and see if there was a suitable tree,” Susan says.

Pete agreed and reported back to Susan that he had found the perfect tree. It was a Sitka spruce that he estimated to be about 6 feet in diameter and at least 100 years old.

“The first thing they do is bring in an arborist to make sure the tree is healthy and can withstand something like that,” says Susan.

Once the arborist gave the go-ahead, Susan and Pete worked together to design a hexagon-shaped house.

“The tree is in the middle of the treehouse, so he built around the tree,” Susan says. “Most people just want a one-room treehouse. But this is my full-time home, I needed more. The tree is an amazing centerpiece.”

Construction began in July. The first task was to build the platform.

“It’s all about how they put the platform up. It’s attached with bolts and knee braces,” says Susan. “Once they get the platform up, it is like building any other house.”

Pete’s crew, based out of Fall City, Washington, worked with local Oregon contractors and finished the job in three weeks. Susan spent her first night in her new house the first week of September.

Set about halfway up the tree at 45 feet, the cedar-sided house has one bedroom and bath, a kitchen,
living room and balcony, and is fully equipped with electricity, plumbing and a septic system.
So far, life in the treehouse has not come with any unexpected challenges, despite Susan having to downsize from her former three-bedroom home to one about the size of a small apartment.

“I was really pretty much prepared for it,” Susan says. “It’s different in that it’s just up high. I see the ocean through the trees, and I like that combination of forest and water.”

Her unusual choice of housing has not elicited any criticisms or even much surprise. Rather, she says, “Everyone is pretty fascinated by it.”