How Quirky is Berkeley? Tree houses

734 Contra Costa Ave. Photo: John Storey
734 Contra Costa Ave. Photo: John Storey

There is something special about tree houses. Shel Silverstein nailed it in a little poem: “A tree house, a free house/ A secret you and me house/ A high up in the leafy branches/ Cozy as can be house.”

A tree house is a portal to another time, to a time when American daily life and popular culture were captured on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. A tree house is a marker of another time, real or imagined,

So, as I walked the streets of Berkeley, I was delighted to see as many tree houses as I saw. One caution about tree houses – they are even more transient than most of the quirky material culture that I photograph. Children grow older. Parents and neighbors grow less tolerant of boards nailed to trees. Lumber rots. Etc. Tree houses come and tree houses go.

Here are a few of my better finds:


2428 Jefferson St. Photo: John Storey
2428 Jefferson St. Photo: John Storey
1435 Allston Way. Photo: John Storey
1435 Allston Way. Photo: John Storey
860 Middlefield St. Photo: John Storey
860 Middlefield St. Photo: John Storey
31 Bret Harte Rd. Photo: John Storey
31 Bret Harte Rd. Photo: John Storey
29 Latham Street. Photo: John Storey
29 Latham Street. Photo: John Storey
7 Virginia Gardens. Photo: John Storey
7 Virginia Gardens. Photo: John Storey

The treehouse on this last one is very high in the redwoods, a serious climb.

A tree house is special, a good and safe place to be, shelter from the storm, a safe harbor, peace, autonomy from the adult world — a child’s place. And we’ve got them here.

Tom Dalzell, a labor lawyer, created a website, Quirky Berkeley, to share all the whimsical objects he has captured with his iPhone. The site now has more than 8,000 photographs of quirky objects around town as well as posts where the 30-year resident muses on what it all means.

For a fuller and more idiosyncratic version of this post, see Quirky Berkeley.