The Case for Clear, Homeowner-Friendly Rules, Laws and Good Faith Practices in Small-Bore Construction Permitting in the District's Historic Districts: Lessons from the Tree House Case

This web site was created in 2016 by a small group of Hill residents who believe in this magical tree house, and our nation's capitol becoming more friendly to backyard play areas as places of wonder and discovery.  Rather than tying up District lawyers to get tree houses torn down in a city without a niche for play forts in the DCMR, DDOT should work with DCRA and the Historic Preservation Office to update the DC Code to cover tree house building.  Most of the other Metro area municipalities now thoughtfully regulate play house, play fort and tree house construction.  DC could do the same.  

At the conclusion of the January 2016 PSC meeting, we were troubled by the sight of neighbors who'd testified in favor of the tree house's destruction hugging, cheering and pumping fists in the air, with no objection from the PSC Chair.  The neighbors believed that they'd succeeded in getting our construction permit revoked, portending the play fort's immediate destruction.  WJLA Channel 7-ABC covered the neighbors' reaction:

The tree house is a harmless structure Office of the DC Attorney General lawyers should have left alone, sparing taxpayers the grim government waste seen in the City's five-year-long battle to destroy it.  What did the protracted campaign achieve?  

The Tree House in Perspective - Why Save It?

Visitors to this web site and City planners might wish to consider the irony of the newly funded Eastern Market Metro Park (EMMP) plan including a tree house. The structure was readily approved for construction in the "Parcel 1 Play Area" of the development, the swathe of the park bounded by D Street and Pennsylvania Avenue SE between 8th and 9th.  This site is several blocks northeast of Archibald Walk.  The City got into the business of erecting a tree house in public space, yet would not leave the existing neighborhood tree house alone for years. See slides 20 and 25 of the EMMP plan for visuals:

Meet the Other Hill Tree House, Frontier Version:

Dan Silverman, editor of the Popville "It's a Beautiful Life" DC neighborhoods blog, posted this shot of a "sweet tree house" back in 2012.  By his recollection, the "other" Hill tree house was situated somewhere in NE, north of LP.  After the Archibald Walk tree house war broke out, rumors of a "frontier style fort" on the Hill, built some years earlier, were swirling, motivating us to cycle through red brick alleys in search of the structure.  The small tree house was legally built without a permit, because it's platform is less than 50 SQF.  Thank you, readers who sent in tips to help us find it, on the lot of 1246 C Street NE.  We promote the sharing of permitting experiences DC tree builders have had, research to pressure the city bureaucracy to create a niche in the building code for play forts.  Photo courtesy of 

Contacting Bing and Ellen:

Tell us about your experiences with tree house and play fort permitting in the District.  Ask to bring Ward 6 Girl or Boy Scouts to the castle for an educational birding session. Request access to the fort for a different reason, or ask us a question about the tree house story.  Email