Portland’s Best Treehouse Looks Like a Set Piece from “Lord of the Rings”

Tour guides stop fleets of bikes on the street out front to marvel.

It looks like something out of Tolkien: a wood-shingled cottage balanced between two Douglas firs and a Western red cedar, 15 feet above the Woodlawn neighborhood. “Like in the mallorns of Lothlórien,” says James Rossi, one of its caretakers, who practices for his voice-over gigs by reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy aloud.

Rossi and his partner, Susanna Low-Beer, built it in 2012 using scrap from the ReBuilding Center and limbs from the three evergreens supporting the platform. SunRay Kelley, the natural builder, drove down from Sedro-Woolley, Wash., with logs strapped to his Toyota pickup. Volunteers with the Village Building Convergence—the same people who paint the intersections of Portland with flowers—bolted the logs to the tree trunks.

“It was a workshop, kind of barn-raising style,” Low-Beer says. The house is 200 square feet.

A neighbor complained because of course they did—this is Portland. So Low-Beer and Rossi had to remove the log staircase and railing leading up into the treehouse and replace them with a metal ladder. That way, it’s not a permanent structure. Yet it’s a landmark. Tour guides stop fleets of bikes on the street out front to marvel. Rossi brings them fresh plums.

Low-Beer, a healing artist, acupuncturist and jewelry maker, holds astrology readings in the treehouse. “I like to come up here and drink tea,” she says. Rossi takes naps in the hammock.

“We like to call ourselves naptivists,” Low-Beer says. “I’ve always been inspired by the spirit of Portland that I encountered when I first moved here in 2004. Also, being able to pretend that I don’t live in the city.”