Finally Reached that Penthouse in the Sky

Cosimo Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, commissioned a tree house on the grounds of his home that contained a fountainlike system of pipes and taps that spouted water into the air. Apparently keeping up with the Joneses started a long time ago, because Medici's son, Francesco, promptly commissioned his own tree house. He called his masterpiece "The Fountain of Oak," which had two massive spiral staircases leading to a platform 25 feet (762 centimeters) off the ground and was set with a large marble table and fountains.

History of Tree Houses

Tree house life has largely been a storied fantasy, its details woven into books such as "The Swiss Family Robinson" and "Peter Pan." But they actually have a long and rich history in the real world. Tree dwellings can be traced back to the people of the South Pacific and Southeast Asia, who lived in trees to provide secure homes for their families. They came and went via thatched baskets that were raised and lowered down the tree trunk. In the Middle Ages, Fransiscan monks used very basic tree-rooms to meditate, and Hindu monks also lived in tree houses to free themselves from earthbound considerations.

Many centuries later, the Renaissance period in the early 1500s brought a renewed interest in Classical culture, and the tree house became a must-have in Florentine gardens. In the mid-19th century, a town just west of Paris called Plessy Robinson became famous for its tree house restaurants, where chic Parisians could be found during their leisure time. The restaurants were built in chestnut trees, covered in rambling roses and had 200 tables at the height of its popularity. Meals were hoisted up to diners in a basket pulley and often consisted of roast chicken and champagne.

British nobility also enjoyed their tree houses, and they became an important part of the culture in Tudor England. It was said that Queen Elizabeth I dined in a massive linden tree. These English tree houses were attached to the tree using rope, which would be tied in summer months and un-tied in winter months to allow the tree to grow. One of the oldest tree houses still in existence is located in a 500-year-old lime tree in Pitchford, England. It was designed in the popular English Tudor style, and is known as "The Tree with a House in It."

In more recent times, Winston Churchill constructed a tree house 20 feet (609.6 centimeters) high in a lime tree at his Chartwell Manor home, and John Lennon was rumored to have a tree house overlooking the Strawberry Fields orphanage.