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A Place to Dream

Letting a child’s imagination come alive in a tree house



Photographs by Megan Haley

For nine-year-old Mathias Seber, it takes equal parts creativity and tenacity—not unlike those powers rendered by superheroes—to reach his lofty treetop retreat. His initial desire to dig a tunnel connecting his yard with his neighbor’s morphed into a “secret hideaway that was away from adults,” recalls his mother, Thao Do.

This alternate, elevated plan worked well for the adventurous Seber. “I don’t need to pretend,” he says. “When I swing on a rope from tree to tree, I am Tarzan.”

The idea became a reality during a weekend drive from their home in Lakeville, Connecticut, through Sheffield, Massachusetts; they spied a treehouse sitting atop a hollow stump at Berkshire Fence. “This is exactly what we want!” Do exclaimed and, as luck would have it, they were directed to the builder straight away.  

Allen Timmons, they soon found, is a kid at heart; were he to don a cape, he might resemble a real-life superhero with a coveted power of capturing the whimsy and wonder of childhood through fanciful treehouses. 

“Allen was very artsy, very soft spoken, and very friendly with this way of speaking to kids that I noticed right away,” she says. Do’s first impression of Timmons was spot-on. He and her son hit it off right away, and the result of their collaboration now resides in a sugar maple on the family’s property.

Timmons, who lives in Great Barrington, remembers getting a carpenter set when he was six, and the first thing he built was a birdhouse. Making shelter for a fragile bird gave him purpose and proved a therapeutic escape from his own coming of age during the tumult of the Civil Rights movement. Timmons characterizes his childhood in Anniston, Alabama, as being rife with harshness, suffering, and isolation. His empathy for others on their plight is palpable; he lived through a bus carrying Freedom Riders being burned near his hometown on Mother’s Day in 1961, and he watched the whole world turn upside-down on the day that southern schools were integrated. It was clear to him, from a young age, that his values often clashed with those around him. So he retreated, seeking refuge in the wild, and his deep knowledge of the woods—from snaring rabbits to starting fires to wielding hatchets—contributes to his strong belief that “nature is our teacher and in straying is where we become ill.”   

Homeowner Amy Pollack, a consummate collector, found Timmons through their mutual affinity for birdhouses. She recalls her interest being piqued by the birdhouse at his Backyard Heirlooms gallery in Great Barrington, and their connection was immediate. The creation of a treehouse ensued, situated on the shared five-acre Stockbridge property where Pollack and her sister, Cindy Levin, have homes. The structure has become “a place to converge,” says Pollack, an art consultant from Miami’s Coconut Grove who makes her time in the Berkshires “all about the kids,” in reference to the sisters’ nine collective grandchildren. Their treehouse, located just a stone’s throw from IS183 Art School and the Berkshire Botanical Garden, invites creativity. Each summer, the family declares a theme: last year it was pennants, and remnants of jaunty canvas triangles remain despite 12 months in the elements. Plans are underway for a “treehouse gallery,” where examples of both two- and three-dimensional artwork by the grandchildren will be on display.

A tour of Timmons’s varied creations invites the question: What constitutes a treehouse? In Lakeville, “the tree grows through the treehouse; it’s pretty awesome,” says Do of the stately maple that remained unscathed in the building process. Timmons and little Mathias spent time brainstorming and sketching to arrive at the finished product. “What we really like about our treehouse is we didn’t have to take [any of the tree] down,” says Do. The structure’s open front creates the best of both worlds. “Mathias has his space, and I can still see him when I’m in the kitchen cooking,” she says. The addition of a wicker basket, complete with pulley system, adds function when he chooses to stow away for any length of time. 

In Stockbridge, the treehouse design was driven by accessibility and visibility. The elaborate building was sited on gently sloping ground rendering it “high enough that it felt like a treehouse,” but close enough to the ground that it felt safe, according to Pollack. Sight lines from both homes, as a means of keeping an eye on children spanning the ages of two to 11, were key.  While the sturdy staircase and ample decking invite independent exploration, and access to the wide slab counter to play store, several small saplings punctuate the floorboards and allow for greenery to encroach. Beneath the branches of the most prominent tree, a silver maple, three generations of siblings and cousins quite literally converge. “[We’ve created] a legacy for our four girls,” says Pollack of their decision to cultivate a summer retreat in the Berkshires. The shared treehouse, in many ways, has proven to be instrumental in providing a platform from which to grow as a family despite their disparate locations throughout much of the year.

Timmons’s affable smile and big-hearted laughter, in which a slight southern twang is still audible, only hint at his affinity for making connections; his clear, blue eyes reveal humility despite the tousled, white hair that hints at the wisdom collected in what Timmons calls his phenomenal journey through life. His passion is clear: “I live to inspire people,” he says. His creations, which evolved from birdhouses to treehouses, reflect this organic and holistic way of thinking. To build shelter from the proverbial storm for the most fragile among us, as a means of bolstering their creativity and sense of wonder about the world, is indeed a gift.  In just a decade he has built 11 treehouses, including one in Alabama, in the top of an old red oak tree, and his catalogue raisonné includes numerous forts, children’s gardens, and other projects with kids.

In a nod to the genesis of the Pollacks’ project, Timmons topped a newel post on the structure’s staircase with a single birdhouse; not surprisingly, three birds made nests in theStockbridge treehouse that first summer. The remnants of swallows and robins who sought shelter there are symbolic, perhaps, of their great collaboration with Timmons whose practical approach accommodates kids safely while daring them to dream. And he is very aware of the impact of his creations. “When you inspire someone, you change their life. It is profound and powerful.” 


Allen Timmons is one of nine local designers and builders who have re-imagined playhouses for Berkshire Botanical Garden’s “PlayDate: Playhouses in the Garden.”  The exhibition, through September 24, features 11 iterations on the notion of what makes a playhouse. Timmons has two creations on display: “The Grownup Hobbit House,” a hollowed-out giant white pine designed for meditation and relaxation, and “A Cottage for Kids,” which provides a colorful and especially “green” space for children. These two pieces—originally one—caught the eye of Thao Do and Robert Seber when it was on display at Berkshire Fence in Sheffield. 

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Sponsor: Gunn Memorial Library
Telephone: 860-868-7586
Contact Name: Sharon Morrissey

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The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
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Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

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In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Zachary Zaitzeff is a painter living in the Hudson Valley who has incorporated his extensive world travel, including his 2011 summit of Mount Everest, into his artwork. Zachary spent 2018 studying...

Cost: free

Where:
RT Facts Gallery
8 Old Barns Rd
Kent, CT  06757
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Sponsor: RT Facts
Telephone: 860-927-1700
Contact Name: Natalie Randall
Website »

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Here’s a holiday idea for the whole family – a private tour of the Peter Parley Schoolhouse! The Ridgefield Historical Society maintains and operates the 1756 Schoolhouse, also called the...

Cost: Suggested donation $10 for adults, kids are free

Where:
Peter Parley Schoolhouse
Intersection of West Lane and CT Rte 35
Ridgefield, CT  06877
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Sponsor: Ridgefield Historical Society
Telephone: 203-438-5821
Contact Name: Peter Parley Schoolhouse
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We invite families to drop-in and enjoy interactive pop-up activity stations, gallery games, and art projects around the KMA.  Get inspired by Outrageous Ornament: Extreme Jewelry in the 21st...

Cost: Member price: Free Non-Member price: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Katonah Museum
134 Jay Street
Katonah, NY  10536
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Sponsor: Katonah Museum of Art
Telephone: 914-232-9555
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Calling all fans of Scottish food and Diana Galbaldon’s Outlander series. Don your tartan, make like Jamie’s clan motto and be ready! You’re invited to an amazing Outlander...

Cost: 100.00

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Road
New Milford, CT  06776
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Telephone: 860-355-0300
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Friday, Jan. 25 Wilton Library Mini Golf Tourney for Adults, 6:30 – 9:30 p.m. The kids had so much fun at last year’s Mini Golf fundraiser, that Wilton Library is holding one for adults only...

Cost: $50 and up

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT  06897
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Sponsor: Wilton Library
Telephone: 203-762-3950
Contact Name: Wilton Library
Website »

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Original members of the Billy Joel Band featuring Liberty DeVitto on drums, Richie Cannata on saxophone and Russell Javors on rhythm guitar. The band recorded and toured extensively with Billy Joel...

Cost: $40

Where:
The Ridgefield Playhouse
80 East Ridge
Ridgefield, CT  06877
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Telephone: (203) 438-5795
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Born from humble beginnings in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport, CT The Alpaca Gnomes cut their teeth in the neighborhood bar scene by playing marathon shows filled with originals and a wide...

Cost: $15.00 - $20.00

Where:
Wall Street Theater
71 Wall Street
Norwalk, CT  06850
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Sponsor: Jeanne Moore
Telephone: (203) 831-5004
Contact Name: Jeanne Moore
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Are you a lifelong with a passion for sharing history? Find out about becoming a Museum Docent! Docents are trained volunteer educators who present guided tours and other education programs to...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Bring the baby and enjoy a lively conversation inspired by the art on view. Enjoy light snacks while socializing with newly-made friends. Crying babies welcome and activities provided for older...

Cost: Member price: Free Non-Member price with Museum admission: Free

Where:
Katonah Museum of Art
134 Jay Street
Katonah, NY  10536
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Sponsor: Katonah Museum of Art
Telephone: 914-232-9555
Website »

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Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Jae Ko: 漂流 Drift,” the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery.   In addition to showcasing...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
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Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

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In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Blending nature and spirituality, Connecticut artist Lori Barker explores the rhythms of life in a new collection of mixed media works on display at the Gunn Memorial Library Stairwell Gallery from...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gunn Memorial Library Stairwell Gallery
5 Wykeham Rd.
Washington, CT  06793
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Sponsor: Gunn Memorial Library
Telephone: 860-868-7586
Contact Name: Sharon Morrissey

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Winter Guided Hike @ Woodcock Nature Center Saturday January 26th, 10-11:30am, FREE ​ Join Mr. Sam for a hike where we'll investigate whats going on in nature in the winter season and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Woodcock Nature Center
56 Deer Run Road
Wilton, CT  06897
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Sponsor: Woodcock Nature Center
Telephone: (203) 762-7280
Contact Name: Sam Nunes
Website »

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The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Jae Ko: 漂流 Drift,” the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery.   In addition to showcasing...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Saturday, Jan. 26 Mini Golf Family Day in the Stacks at Wilton Library, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Wilton Library will hold its 2nd mini golf fundraising event. There will be food (each paid admission will...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT  06897
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Sponsor: Wilton Library
Telephone: 203-762-3950
Contact Name: Wilton Library
Website »

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  Touchon transforms verbal language into handsome geometric compilations, to reveal the beauty and musicality of language characterized by warmly colored shapes, interlocking irregular grids and...

Cost: free

Where:
Canfin Gallery
39 Main Street
Tarrytown, NY  10591
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Sponsor: Canfin Gallery
Telephone: 914-332-4554
Contact Name: Jean-Claude Canfin
Website »

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Zachary Zaitzeff is a painter living in the Hudson Valley who has incorporated his extensive world travel, including his 2011 summit of Mount Everest, into his artwork. Zachary spent 2018 studying...

Cost: free

Where:
RT Facts Gallery
8 Old Barns Rd
Kent, CT  06757
View map »


Sponsor: RT Facts
Telephone: 860-927-1700
Contact Name: Natalie Randall
Website »

More information

Here’s a holiday idea for the whole family – a private tour of the Peter Parley Schoolhouse! The Ridgefield Historical Society maintains and operates the 1756 Schoolhouse, also called the...

Cost: Suggested donation $10 for adults, kids are free

Where:
Peter Parley Schoolhouse
Intersection of West Lane and CT Rte 35
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Ridgefield Historical Society
Telephone: 203-438-5821
Contact Name: Peter Parley Schoolhouse
Website »

More information

Saturday, January 26th from 1:00 - 2:00 PM, Ages 4+ Attend for groovy crafts, snacks, games, and more in celebration of the Pete the Cat book series. This event is free and no registration is...

Cost: Free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 Titicus Road
North Salem, NY  10560
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Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

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Hudson Chorale, the area’s largest mixed voice chorus, is poised to please.  The group will begin its 2019 season with two matinee concerts on Saturday, January 26, 2019 at 3:00 pm and Sunday,...

Cost: Advance Sale-$25; Door-$30; Students-$10.

Where:
The Chapel at Maryknoll
55 Ryder Rd
Ossining, NY  10562
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Sponsor: Hudson Chorale
Telephone: 1-800-838-3006
Contact Name: Anne Norum
Website »

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Join us for a very special evening of music from these four accomplished singer songwriters: David Ray, Mike Latini, Dave Goldenberg, George Mallas.  

Cost: 20.00

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Road
New Milford, CT  06776
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Telephone: 860-355-0300
Website »

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Join us for another incredible evening of music featuring four local singer songwriters performing original music! Doors open at 7pm in New Morning’s handicapped accessible Community Room on the...

Cost: Free

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
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Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
Website »

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