A Construction Permit Authorizes this Homemade, 30 SQF Kids Fort on Capitol Hill. Yet the DC Government has Tasked 7 Senior Attorneys with the Job of Getting it Torn Down Since 2015. We're Calling it Government Waste.

01/11/19: EARLY 2019 TREE HOUSE UPDATE

In early January 2018, right before the Washington Post reported that we'd filed suit in Federal court to challenge DDOT's denial of due process in tree house permitting, the counter at the bottom of this page had tallied fewer than 9,000 hits.  That number now stands at over 37,000.  In the words of iconic 60s rocker Buffalo Springfield, There's something happening here.  What it is ain't exactly clear.  Whatever has brought you to the tree house web site, thanks for stopping by and Happy New Year.  

On 12/28, the popular DCist: News, Food, Art & Events blog ran a feature on Not-in-My-Back-Alley squabbles in the District.  Deane Madsen, architectural writer, brings readers up to date on the "Capitol Hill Tree House Affair" with the first media report poking fun at incompetent construction permitting work on the part of the DC Department of Transportation (DDOT).  Madsen notes that the agency sent multiple citations to a "non-existent Mr. Lee," fining him for failing to tear his tree house down.  

//dcist.com/story/18/12/28/what-do-fights-over-treehouse-castles-gardens-and-waffles-have-in-common-alleys/

This past fall, WTOP reported on a Council of DC hearing at which DDOT leaders were called to task by the five members of the Committee on Transportation and the Environment for failing to make adequate progress in implementing the agency's "Vision Zeroinitiative.  The ambitious DC government scheme aims to reduce annual traffic deaths in the District of Columbia to zero by 2024.  Sadly, there were at least 34 road fatalities in DC in 2018, after an increase in traffic deaths each year since 2012.

//wtop.com/dc/2018/09/where-is-the-urgency-dc-council-advocates-critical-of-vision-zero/

We, the Capitol Hill tree house-building parents believe that taxpayer funds allocated to DDOT should be spent to bolster public safety.  In the last several years, the leadership of the agency's Public Space Regulation Division has lost persepctive on DDOT's core mission in tasking a team of attorneys with getting a permitted backyard play fort off an alley torn down.  The DIY tree house, built during the summer of 2015 nine feet above a private patio and a public-private mulched tree box, neither obstructs travel nor poses a threat to the public.  Even so, SEVEN DIFFERENT SENIOR CITY ATTORNEYS have been given the unenviable job of ensuring that our little girls' fort is "abated" (read demolished) from overhanging unpaved public space by about 20 inches.  See Castle Paper Trail for a list of DC government lawyers who've authored tree house briefs. 

DDOT's over-the-top reaction to our challenge to the agency's abuse of authority in unlawfully withdrawing the permit authorizing the tree house clearly stems from from Post coverage of the story.  The result?  At an inconsequential hearing at the DC Court of Appeals, DDOT recently turned up with FOUR ATTORNEYS and a senior City forester to contend with us, ordinary citizens representing ourselves in litigation.  The hearing wasn't the first time DC had trained extraordinary legal firepower on the small structure.  In April, SEVERAL DC LAWYERS AND TWO DDOT DIVISION CHIEFS attended a six-hour-long court mediation session.  Yet DDOT could have ended litigation at any point, freeing up attorneys to do real work in the public interest, simply by agreeing to let the tree house alone until our young daughters have outgrown it.

Thus far, none of the D.C. Council members on the Committee on Transportation and the Environment (with DDOT oversight authority) has indicated a willingness to address the nutty government waste in question, senior attorneys tasked with wrecking a kids fort.  Nonetheless, we will continue to invite our elected officials to visit the tree house. 

Labor Day marked the tree house's 3rd anniversary, noteworthy because the Chair of the Public Space Committee (PSC), a senior DDOT official, had tried to tear up the permit authorizing the structure back in early 2016.  Our message to the City is that when the DC permitting agencies unlawfully revoke building permits, the District's investment climate takes a hit.  We hope that this bizarre case has served to highlight DDOT incompetence and consumer-hostile permitting practices.  If any other DC homeowners are better able to defend rights granted under construction permits as a result of our having challenged DDOT wrongdoing, litigation will have been a small price to pay.  

Ward 6 Cub Scout, Daisy Scout and Brownie Scout leaders, contact the Psychas-Yee family if you're interested in bringing your troupe to the tree house for an educational spring birdwatching session!  Click on Birding Activities for more information.

Many thanks to everybody in the 'hood who stopped by our 3RD ANNUAL JULY 4TH OPEN HOUSE, the best yet, on a scorching day.  Around 200 people of all ages turned up for cake and lemonade after the Capitol Hill Community Parade on 8th St.  More than 80 arboreal travelers, ages 3-10, collected stamps in "tree house passports" in the elm, and many fired off nerf arrows on the south arm of Archibald Walk SE The atmosphere was joyous - what a morning to remember!  See Photo Gallery for some fun pictures.

Did you hear?  The tree house case landed in the US District Court of the District of Columbia in January 2018. The Washington Post Metro Section ran this surprising report, after finding the complaint via Pacer Legal Filings software:

//www.washingtonpost.com/local/after-a-three-year-neighborhood-dispute-the-case-of-a-capitol-hill-treehouse-lands-in-federal-court/2018/01/17/61229ec0-fb10-11e7-ad8c-ecbb62019393_story.html?utm_term=.fea5530b2d89

The story about the Federal lawsuit was scooped by none other than the DC Urban Turf blog.  Their report emphasizes that the tree house builders are challenging DDOT's denial of due process in construction permitting.  Find a complete list of annotated tree house related media links--more than 50--under thPress Coverage header. 

//dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/hacked-accounts-and-improper-notices-the-saga-of-the-capitol-hill-treehouse/13455

3 YEARS OF LITIGATION:  DDOT's GREATEST THREAT IDENTIFIED IN A CHILD'S FORT

July 2015:  Ellen Psychas and Bing Yee, longtime Hill residents, ask DC permiting officials which authorizations will be required to build a tree house on their lot at Archibald Walk SE, near Eastern Market.  The proposed fort would jut a foot-and-a-half over the tree box abutting their lot off a back alley from which vehicles have long been banned.  The creative design would enable the builders to use a wooden fence with posts laid in concrete as supports, minimizing the drilling of 18-inch lag bolts into a rare, century-old elm.  They learn that there is no reference to play forts in the DC Municipal Regulations (DCMR) or Historic Preservation Rules.  They show officials project plans and are told that DC does not permit structures with footprints of less than 50 SQF. 

August-September 2015:  The tree house is built for the Yee girls, ages 3 and 5, by relatives and friends.  Immediate neighbors are left notes telling them that a non-permitted fort will go up in the backyard elm tree.  None react.  The structure does not extend over a paved surface and cannot be viewed from any street.  

October-November 2015:  A neighbor complains to DDOT that the fort was built in a public tree, and constitutes a public nuisance (both untrue).  A senior DDOT inspector visits the alley and directs the parents to apply for a construction permit for the fort to extend slightly into public air space over mulch.  The parents do as instructed right away, quickly securing the permit.  The DDOT city-wide permitting manager chooses the type and length of the authorization, which becomes permanent on Nov. 20th.  The parents are not real estate professionals and this is their first public space permit. 

December 2015-January 2016 A dozen alley neighbors sign a tear-down petition, addressed to Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B.  The ANC and the DC Public Space Commitee then review a permit "renewal" application the parents did not submit for a "proposed tree house" that's stood for months.  The "renewal" is of a "balcony" construction permit under a Dept. of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) code, clearly in a different category than a limited-duration "public space rental" permit, e.g. for a street festival or temporary parking.  In the fall, DDOT had not advised the parents that their permit would need to be renewed, or that ANC or PSC review of tree house project plans would be required.  Moreover, the language of the permit does not state that the building authorization is temporary and would need to be renewed.

A DDOT official goes into Ellen's permitting account to apply for the "renewal," unbeknown to her, and changes her password.  He memorializes the hacking in an email.  Later, in October 2017, the parents will lodge a complaint about the hacking with the FBI Internet Crimes Center.  Predictably, the PSC denies the "renewal application," the agency's crude attempt to take an administrative shortcut to revoking a closed permit after a small group of neighbors had complained about the tree house. No permit revocation documents are ever served.  At heated public hearings, permitting officials dodge Bing's questions as to why the original permit is not being respected.

February 2016-November 2017:  The parents appeal the permit application "renewal" denial at the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) and, eventually, the DC Court of Appeals.  DDOT ignores Bing's requests for clarification of the status of the original permit, which the agency now refuses to recognize.  DDOT fines the parents $8,000 for not "abating" the tree house from public space, with half a dozen Notices of Violation served in the wrong homeowner's name, to a "Mr. Lee" vs. a "Mr. Yee" (because all East Asian immigrants must be, er, "Lees," like Bruce Lee).  The notices are served via certified mail, meaning that Post Office staff will not release them to Bing.

November 2017-January 2018:  DDOT refuses court mediation at OAH, even though the lead judge has already lined up a mediator.  The Office of the Attorney General of DC (OAG) begins representing DDOT.  After more than two years of being on the receiving end of abusive administrative errors and shenanigans threatening a homeowner's right to due process in construction permitting, Bing, a Federal lawyer, but not a litigator, and Ellen sue DDOT.  The parents represent themselves in the first complaint they file in any court of law.  The case is brought under the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), and other causes of action.  The parents sue pro se right before the statute of limitations on various causes of action is to expire, with the goal of simply keeping the fort while their girls are young.  

February 2018:  DDOT/OAG argues that the parents' lawsuit is "not ripe" in US District Court, illogically, after having asserted that the case "is moot" at OAH.  The Court of Appeals dismisses DC's motion to throw out the appeal and refers the case to mediation.  City lawyers now insist that there was never a "permit renewal" process.  They claim that the parents had actually applied for a 2nd permit, a (mythical but mandatory) "public space occupancy permit for balcony construction," denied by the PSC.  Judge the quality of DDOT's legal arguments for yourself at Castle Paper Trail.

March-April 2018:  DDOT/OAG tries to get the Federal case dismissed.  Mediation fails at the DC Court of Appeals, after DDOT refuses to leave the tree house alone for a few more years.  The Federal case is assigned to Amy Berman Jackson, the US District Court judge who's hearing the DC Manafort case in the Mueller probe.  This year, Judge Berman Jackson will rule if the family's counter suit survives in whole or in part.  The OAG lawyers involved seem confident that they will get the entire case thrown out.  

September 27th, 2018:  The DC Court of Appeals hears oral arguments regarding vacating a 2015 DDOT Stop-Work-Order.  One judge on the 3-judge panel declares that the order was likely illegal, as it overreached in directing the parents to remove the tree house.  The panel moots the apellate case.  The Federal case, however, continues.  

October 2018+:  Embarassingly, City attorneys who've authored tree house legal briefs include a current Deputy AG and the DC Solicitor GeneralThe City's ludicrous campaign to wreck a kids fort built for around $1,500 has cost taxpayers SIX FIGURES IN STAFF TIME.  Meanwhile, the Yee girls are growing up fast, nearing the day when they will no longer play in their little tree house.  DDOT digs in on a trifling zoning matter to warn homeowners not to challenge low-grade permitting wrongdoing, the stuff of political farce.  Kids age out of their play forts, and then families take them down, irregardless of the public resources thrown at trying to destroy a particular structure.

The parents have stayed in litigation to protest how they did what City officials required of them to build a legal tree house, but ANC 6B and DDOT moved the goal posts on them post hoc due to internal dysfunction and administrative overreach.  An arbitrary project screening system set the stage for litigation.  The ANC 6B Planning and Zoning Committee had no business informing homeowners in its catchment area that they were required to submit to City review to defend a closed permit.  DC Code 1-309.10(a), spelling out ANC powers, states that the commissions “may advise…with respect to all proposed matters of DC government policy…” Completed building projects authorized by closed permits cannot be described as "proposed matters."  If an ANC has an issue with a construction project covered by a permit that hasn't been lawfully revoked, the commissioners' quarrel is with the issuing agency, not the homeowner. 

The City's permitting games to try to demolish a backyard fort have been enabled by a failed regulatory process in a jurisdiction supporting a byzantine construction permitting scheme.  The District's poorly explained and discretionary system for issuing (and withdrawing) homeowners' building authorizations, particularly those in public space and in the DC Historic Districts, sets up a citizen to have real difficulty defending rights under permits covering small projects, e.g. sheds, fences and play houses.

This site not only considers the evolution of a knock-down neighborhood fight over a tree house, it proposes measures the City could take to prevent history from repeating itself when a family sets out to build a backyard play space.  See Castle Paper Trail, Proposed Tree House Rules.  The conflict hasn't been as much about a tree house as lack of accountability to the public on the part of the DC permitting agencies.  The story also encapsulates an urban community's struggle to balance the needs and interests of the old guard with those of the droves of young families putting down roots in neighborhoods.  What else could explain why a kids fort a stone's throw from the Capitol Dome has attracted media attention?  The WaPo has run four articles on the story, which also aired on local TV stations--NBC-4,CBS-7, ABC-9 and Fox-5--in early 2016. NBC affiliates broadcast footage of the tree house from coast to coast.  See Castle in the Media for an entertaining annotated list of local and national tree house media links. 

Community Events at the Capitol Hill Tree House

MEMORIES OF INDEPENDENCE DAY OPEN HOUSES AT THE ELM: 2016 - 2018

 

In recent years, young families have stopped by the tree house after the local Independence Day celebration, the Capitol Hill Community Parade on 8th Street, two blocks away.  In January 2016, Slate Magazine's Nora Caplan-Bricker called the tree house "a monument to freedom."  Each July 4th since, changing neighborhood demographics have been on vivid display in the alley, as young Hill families have celebrated the fort's survival.  The open houses draw 75-100 kids, giving them a chance to explore in the elm at these low-key celebrations.  Consider the irony of how the ANC 6B commissioner for the property (who has left office) proclaimed to the media that the parents had dedicated public space for exclusively private purposes...with no benefit whatsoever to the public at large."  

The Independence Day open houses have been fun for young families in the communty. Hill teens serve as monitors in the elm, helping keep young visitors safe.  A rope-and-pulley controlled bird feeder system lets kids fill several feeders from the alley.  Visiting children have fun playing Crusaders on the Walk in knights helmets.  Inside the fort, visitors bang a gong, ring farm bells, peer through a toy telescope, blow bubbles, have tea parties, try out the climbing rocks on the tree trunk, raise a supplies bucket and draw on a chalkboard. Tree house frequent fliers mix with first-time visitors, from babies to grandparents.  A few of the neighbors who once opposed the tree house join in.  Each Independence Day that the play castle survives to see another community event feels like a victory over run-of-the-mill permitting abuses in the District. 

The nerf arrows archery range on the south arm of the Walk is a draw at open houses.  Arrows are trapped by the 15-foot-high walls of the historic Walker Dairy warehouse and red brick carriage house on either side.  A new generation of Hill residents appreciates a little-visited Hill walkway (historically, "Marks Alley"), making happy memories of participating in Independence Day celebrations by the tree house. 

Thank you, Capitol Hill, for reminding us of why we strive to preserve a unique urban play space.  If you attended an open house with your family, we hope that you and your children, or grandkids, had a good time and that we can welcome you back in 2019. 

Game of Capture-the-Castle, June, 2018.  Capitol Hill children have grown attached to the whimsical tree house at open houses, play dates, birthday parties and birdwatching events.  See Costume Events.  We're concerned that, if this tree house is demolished prematurely, it will be the last built in a DC Historic District for a generation.  The local historic preservationists who came at the structure would do well to explain how backyard play spaces pose a threat to ongoing architectural restoration efforts on the Hill.  Which old building is threatened by a child's fort?  We believe that the DC community can balance safety, heritage, public space and the need to promote outdoor play for children.  When City leaders help make the DC Historic Districts child-friendly zones, they encourage the young families making their lives in them to thoughtfully invest in their classic properties.  One result is that parents become motivated to help the Department of Public Works maintain public alleys providing access to play spaces.    

 *POST-THANKSGIVING OPEN HOUSE:  TERRIFIC FUN IN THE ALLEY

The fall community open house was a wonderful time on a cold but sunny November afternoon.  Neighborhood kids converged on the Walk, with (foam) sword fighting emerging as the most popular activity.  More than 60 people rocked in to chat over pie and hot cider.  A hard-working teen tree house monitor kept good order up in the elm, giving the grown-ups below a chance to relax.  Alley visitors enjoyed filling the play fort's inventive pulley-and-rope-controlled bird feeders and bird bath.  See Photo Gallery.

*MR. TONY'S CAPITOL HILL ADVENTURE CAMPERS VISIT THE TREE HOUSE:

What luck!  Seventy well-behaved knights from Mr. Tony's popular adventure camp, for ages 3-8, defended the castle in August.  They had help from a dozen stellar camp counselors.  The decade-old camp is a popular program for local children, serving hundreds each summer. The adventure campers honed their archery skills on the Walk and made pine cone bird feeders to take home.  We really enjoyed hosting the adventurers on their epic visit.  Come again! See Photo Gallery for more pictures.

Digging Deeper into the Tree House Controversy

So why would alley neighbors, DDOT officials, and a team of City attorneys strive to get a permitted play fort off a back alley torn down?

In the summer of 2015, Ellen and Bing worked with friends and relatives to build a tree house off the narrow "U"-shaped back alley.  The solid open fort, which encorporates elaborate safety and security features, was constructed in their SE property's back yard.  The tree house, painted blue and gray to match the house, stands off F St. Terrace, the alley behind Christ Church on G Street. 

The tree house was built in an environmentally-friendly manner.  The family hired a DDOT Urban Forestry Division-recommended private arborist, to advise them on the care of their century-old American elm.  Elms are relatively rare in DC, because more than 80% of them succumbed to Dutch Elm Disease decades ago.  The tree is thriving.  In fact, the host elm is in far better circulatory health than it was in 2015. 

Over the winter of 2015-2016, the ANC 6B-03 commissioner got retroactive review of the family's construction permit on the agenda of a meeting of the Public Space Committee, a city-wide zoning commission.  The Committee voted 4-0, with an abstention by DCRA-Construction, to overrule the issuance of the permit, portending the tree house's immediate destruction.  However, the PSC lacks the authority to review closed permits, so the Committee was not within its rights to vote at all.  The Mayor's Order establishing the PSC didn't grant the body the power to overule permits.  The parents were unaware of ANC and PSC overreach at the time (having been told that post hoc review was mandatory) but have since researched the relevant legal issues.

At the PSC hearing in January 2016, the Chair strong-armed committee members to vote to tear down the play fort, insisting that the parents should have gone through a (non-existent) process for permitting DC tree houses.  But the window DDOT had to require the tree house builders to submit to City review was the time before they were issued a construction permit, versus after the permit had closed.  Find the PSC's unfathomable letter announcing the Committee's decision under Castle Paper Trail header.  

The parents are making good progress in litigation.  After the PSC vote, they considered inching the fort's overhang over their western land boundary to save it.  By the summer of 2016, six months later, they'd reached the conclusion that the relocation project would be too hard on the old elm, and that the shifted fort would be destabilized.  Moreover, Ellen and Bing had their eyes opened to post hoc City review of the tree house project plans as a cynical effort to fool and pressure them to alter or destroy a legal structure authorized by a pre-existing construction permit.  They prefer to stay in litigation than to acquiesce to DDOT's computer hacking-based permit revocation scheme.  

The authors of the tear-down petition, which some of the immediate neighbors refused to sign, argued that because the tree house clashes with its surroundings architecturally, it should be demolished.  Neighbors asserted that the "castle-theme...is incompatible with the rest of the neighborhood and therefore antithetical to the historic nature and existing streetscape."  In supporting documents, made public by ANC 6B, neighbors expressed concern that the fort would attract vagrants, prove unsafe, depress property values, irreparably damage the tree (owned by Bing and Ellen), fall into disrepair, hurt alley tourism and compromise their privacy.  But none of this has happened, helping explain why the campaign to destroy the tree house had petered out by late 2016.  

The backlash against what Slate Magazine's Norah Caplan-Bricker dubbed "DC Treehouse-gate" in 2016 suggests that the public at large has not been swayed by the argument that a small tree house off a Capitol Hill back alley should be destroyed.  Local supporters have come forward to help the family in various ways.  The American elm has been pruned by a professional tree care company without charge, and donations have been made.  Supporters have included kids offering allowance money and Hill realtors who like showing the tree house to clients with young children.  

In November 2015, a senior DDOT inspector who visited Archibald Walk stumbled across dozens of large potted plants and trees residents had been keeping in the alley for many years.  The agency then cited the plant owners.  It was a development for which the plant owners blamed the tree house builders, giving rise to their tree house tear-down petition.  The neighbors' spokesman explained the group's decision to the WaPo, saying that the whimsical play fort "encroaches on" and "overwhelms" the public space..." yet none of the neighbors who pushed for the fort's destruction has a view of the castle-styled facade from their property's lot.  

Creating a Process for Permitting Tree Houses in the DC Historic Districts

Ellen and Bing would not only like to preserve the tree house until their girls have lost interest in playing in it, they would like to see clear tree house rules enacted in the District.  To this end, in mid 2016, they petitioned the directors of DCRA, DDOT, and the Historic Preservation Office for rule-making related to tree house construction.  Read their petition, which the agencies ignored, here.  The rescue operation has been an opportunity to raise awareness that there is no niche for tree houses in the DCMR.  The City considers tree houses to be either non-permitted "playground equipment" or "accessory sheds," overly broad categorizations creating permitting confusion and promoting conflict in communities over structures going up in trees. 

The parents' committment to preserving the banged-up historic alley their fort overlooks has been made clear since 2011, when they lobbied DDOT to repave its badly degraded surface. The paving project, the first in decades, improved alley conditions, particularly drainage.  Archibald Walk was occupied by a large swarm of insects in warm weather before repaving.  The family's contribution to keeping up the neglected alley, which they often sweep, is apparent to long-time visitors. 

Without specific rules related to play fort or tree or play house-building in DC, unlike in many other big US cities, the door is left open to permitting adhocery.  Permitting employees took the position that the fort's design broke none of the tree space rules for owners of adjoining lots, spelled out in DCMR Rule 24-109.3.  The permit references "the property owner's street box."  In 2017, the rule was amended to read that a "structure" cannot overhang a tree space, surely as a reaction to the tree house war.  With the amended rule, DC law has been appropriately updated, meaning that no homeowner could ever build another such structure.  Thus, no dangerous precedent for tree house-building in DC would be set by DDOT opting to leave this kids fort alone.  

Why is the Tree House Case in Litigation?

Ellen and Bing have gone to court to defend rights granted by a permit DDOT came to regret issuing, after neighbors complained about a child's fort.  Agency oficials opted to harness a bogus retroactive "review" of the authorization to tear it up. This type of casual permitting malfeasance, targetting homeowners who built small projects, is seldom challenged in DC. 

DDOT's "review" was government gone awry: the PSC Chair declared the tree house illegal to the WaPo in advance of the specious hearing, without even the pretense of impartiality.  Afterward, media attention brought the family advice from real estate professionals wise to City permitting games.  Architects and contractors reached out, urging the parents to challenge DDOT's bad faith in court, because, under DC law, a building permit like theirs is a closed chapter absent a legal permit revocation process.   

Public Access to the Play Fort - DC Children Welcome:

In the last several years, the whimsical tree house has become a community resource.  Look for announcements of neighborhood open houses on the Moms on the Hill (MOTH) and the several Nextdoor.com Eastern Market area list servs. 

In addition to holding open houses, the family has developed the fort as a bird-watching platform for children. Occasionally, DC Boy and Girl Scout groups visit, to enable young naturalists to work on scout birding merit badges.  Youth group, school group, and day camp leaders can send requests for small groups of children to visit the tree house.  See Birding Activities.  

The Tree House on Capitol Hill Neighborhood Tours:

Come find the tree house!  The unique play fort has become something of a Hill landmark since the early 2016 media blitz.  Ellen and Bing first opened the tree house to the public on Mother's Day Weekend 2016, during the Capitol Hill Restoration Society House & Garden Tour.  The family invited tour-goers to explore the fort, prompting several hundred CHRS event ticket holders to stop off at their SE patio.  

The guided Capitol Hill Food Tour, and the "Barrack's Row Tour of Duty" walk, often bring tourists by the tree house.  The authors of the tear-down petition argued that the struture "impairs the public use and enjoyment of this space...and the enjoyment of neighborhood tours which transit Archibald Walk and F Street Terrace" with the fort "disrupting the integrity and visual beauty of the alleyway."  Their view has not been universally shared.  Local tour guides say that visitors sometimes ask to be shown the sweet tree house they saw on TV news.  Tourists snap pictures and call out encouragement to kids to "Defend the castle!"  

Having trouble finding the tree house?  Try searching for Eastern Market on Google Maps, where a photo of "Tree House of Contention" may pop up at the bottom of the screen.  Then plug in "East 516 Archibald Walk SE" into your GPS (vs. simply "Archibald Walk") to be directed to an alley entrance off F Street Terrace, the main alley, paved in gray asphalt pavers, running north to south between E & G Streets SE. 

Parting Thoughts on the Future of DC Tree Houses

Going forward, the construction of tree houses should be regulated in the District, but in a way that encourages families to build them responsibly to promote outdoor play.  In a society where most urban youth spend too much time inside, the City should not be in the business of encouraging sedentary lifestyles for local children by making backyard kids forts difficult to build, and even harder to preserve.  

Discouraging homeowners in the DC Historic Districts from building tree houses is short-sighted in a city with many large trees in residential neighborhoods.  The unlawful revocation of building permits by the government is another losing strategy in a municipality that has struggled to rein in abuse of authority and dysfunction on the part of its administrative agencies, dampening statehood prospects. 

Homeowners in the District have a right to know exactly what they are, and aren't, allowed to build, no matter how large or small a construction project might be.   

To urban tree houses as places of joy and discovery!

Friends of the CH Tree House

Photos courtesy of julieannwoodford.photoshelter.com and Ellen Psychas of rescuetreehouse@gmail.com

Thanks for stopping by.  Capitol Hill visitors and residents who haven't seen the tree house, please come find it and draw your own conclusions.