Spending a night in a treehouse is a child-hood fantasy that could come true for Lynchburg couples and visitors starting a month from now. Animal Planet’s “Treehouse Masters” is bringing a new honeymoon treehouse to the grounds of the Bella Rose Plantation on Graves Mill Road just in time for the wedding season.
“Treehouse Masters” specializes in constructing full-size treehouses for adults who want a Swiss Family Robinson-style getaway but with all of the comforts of a modern home.
Two-story honeymoon retreat will overlook Bella Rose wedding site
Reporter: Margaret Carmel
Lynchburg News & Advance
February 17, 2017
Even though Bella Rose only just began holding weddings in May of last year, the dream for a treehouse on the property began three years ago for Vickie Runk when she and her husband, Brian, purchased the Bella Rose property with plans of establishing the wedding venue.
“I told [“Treehouse Masters”] our story, that we had this great tract of land that was historic in nature and we were only a few miles from Thomas Jefferson’s historic summer home Poplar Forest,” she said. “My idea was that we would do a Jeffersonian-style treehouse and put in lots of the components that Jefferson used back in the day because that was the time this property was fully intact.”
Scheduled to be completed after just four weeks of construction, the two-story treehouse will overlook the wedding site at the back of the Bella Rose property. The structure will be assembled in prefabricated sections and be fully anchored to the ground and the tree to prevent shifting. Upon completion, it is estimated to weigh 75,000 pounds.
Runk has been working with a designer based in New York to come up with the concept for the interior, which will be modeled in a Jeffersonian style. The structure will be an octagon shape, modeled after Poplar Forest. “This is just an unbelievable experience that I will never forget,” she said. “This is the first treehouse [the show has done] that will have actual drywall in it to resemble the plaster Thomas Jefferson used, and it will have windows top to bottom.”
Long after Runk thought they had been overlooked for a spot on the show, a call came in from “Treehouse Masters” in March 2016 about the possibility of an episode. For the show’s star and lead treehouse designer Pete Nelson, the combination of never having built a treehouse in Virginia and the proximity of the historic vacation home of Thomas Jefferson drew him to the project.
“I’m a big history buff, especially American history, so the ability to come and see Poplar Forest and build something modeled after it on this historic property was great,” said Nelson, the owner of Nelson Treehouse and Supply based out of Fall City in Washington state. “I saw the Runks as having a high level of excitement and always saying ‘what’s next’ and ‘what can we do now.'”
In addition to the treehouse, the Runks also have two other major construction projects in the works for the property. In the next two months, construction will begin on a large greenhouse cathedral to host weddings inside during bad weather. Additionally, plans are in the works for a large event center capable of hosting 350 to 400 guests for larger weddings.
Bella Rose Plantation has partnered with the planned mixed-use Rosedale development located on the tract of land next to the wedding venue. In a contentious November Lynchburg City Council meeting, the council voted to allow up to $5.9 million in property taxes raised from both the Bella Rose Plantation and Rosedale properties to be reimbursed to the developers to fund the main road leading from Graves Mill Road onto the Rosedale tract over 15 years.
The Lynchburg Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposed event center Feb. 22 at 4 p.m. in the second floor conference room of City Hall. City Council tentatively is scheduled to hear the petition at 7:30 p.m. April 11.
“I think that Lynchburg is in for some really great news about Rosedale, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to be the start of that development,” Runk said. “It will bring a lot of great things to the city and give the community more options.”
In the meantime, Runk looks forward to the treehouse coming together.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled to take this journey,” she said. “The wedding season is just kicking off for us, which means so many brides will be able to use the treehouse exactly as I had imagined it.”
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