The most famous example of a compulsive building project is the Winchester Mystery House, a 160-room Victorian mansion in California that was continuously under construction for 38 years. But not all people who build obsessively have the funds of a widowed gun magnate, and unlike Sarah Winchester not everyone is propelled by a need to appease spirits. Like the Winchester Mystery House, the “scrap shacks” listed below are compulsive building projects, but these roadside attractions are made mostly out of recycled materials. Most of them are considered works of folk art, and all of them have stories that are as interesting as the end result. As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.The World’s Largest Treehouse (aka the Treehouse Church)
Built around an 80-foot white oak tree, the 10-floor treehouse pictured above is estimated to be as large as 10,000 square feet. Proprietor Horace Burgess calls it “God’s Treehouse,” and says he received his inspiration in a vision that came to him in 1993. He’s been building ever since. Most of the materials are recycled pieces of lumber (and besides the white oak, there are six other support trees), but Horace estimates he has sunk about $12,000 and 258,000 nails into the project.
Photo by Wonderdawg777, Flickr
The Paper House
In order to prove that paper makes good insulation in the 1920’s, Elis F. Stenman (a mechanical engineer) decided to built a two-room summer home entirely out of paper. Two years and 215 layers of newspaper later, the walls to the Paper House were complete and Elis moved in. Later he decided to go on and make all the furnishings and decorations out of paper, too, so the project went on until his death in 1942. Wood was used for the frame, floor and roof of the house, but everything else is made entirely out of paper donated from friends and family (it’s re-varnished from time to time for preservation purposes).
Photos by Danielle Walquist Lynch, Flickr
At first glance the Tombstone House looks fairly ordinary, but a closer look reveals that the house has been constructed some very unusual building blocks: the tombstones of over two thousand Union Soldiers from the Civil War. Oswald Young got his hands on the marble tombstones in 1934 after cost cutting efforts during the Great Depression forced cemetery workers to uproot the tombstones, cut off the lower portions, and lay them flat on the ground (the result was less maintenance). The bases were then sold to Young for a whopping price of $45.
Photo by Tombstone House, Facebook
Beer Can House
Ripley’s Believe It or Not estimated that over 50,000 cover the Beer Can House, a true monument to recycling. Retiree John Milkovisch started the project in 1968 when he “got sick of mowing the grass” and covered his front and back yard with concrete, inlaying thousands of marbles, rocks, and glittering metal pieces into the mix. Later, he began adding aluminum beer can siding and eventually strung garlands made of cut beer cans from the edges of the roof. Today the house is a museum.
Photo by Saturne, Flickr
The Heidelberg Project is an ongoing community art project that was started by Tyree Guyton in 1986 on a block that was once home to drug dealers in Detroit, Michigan. Today, the street is filled with brightly painted houses, plus trees, cars and signs that have been turned into sculptures with the use of salvaged bikes, vacuums, stuffed animals, dolls, televisions, tires and more. Although project has faced complete destruction twice over the years, it is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
Photos by Michigan Municipal League, Flickr
Grandma Prisbrey’s Bottle Village
Simi Valley, CA
This folk art piece is the single handed work of Tressa “Grandma” Prisbrey, a self-taught artist. She started the project at 59 years old when she needed materials to build a privacy wall for her property but could afford very little. At its peak, Bottle Village had 23 buildings, plus shrines, walkways, sculptures and more all created from recycled bottles and other items from the local landfill. Unfortunately, the site suffered damage during the 1994 Northridge earthquake and only three buildings remain fully intact.
Photo by Laurie Avocado, Flickr
Have you seen other obsessive places while on the road? Let us know in the comments below.