The Tree Room, named by a friend's toddler, was built in the late 19th century/early 20th century. The original construction had a floor system at the level of the catwalk with at least some portion of the interior facade covered with heartpine beadboard paneling. Underneath the floor was dug out with basement openings to receive coal shipments. From the look of a couple charred openings, it seems likely that a steam powered electric generator fueled electricity to light the interiors of the surrounding warehouses. Where our beautiful koi pond currently resides used to be fire bricks and train tracks that we speculate took large amounts of coal from the basement entrance to an oven. Although it is unknown to when the internal structure of the building rotted or burned away, it seems as if the floor and ceiling of the structure burned around the 1960's, opening it to the space it is today.
The bones of the Tree Room have not always been as structured as they are today; for the 20+ years that I have been here, the space has been owned a little bit by each person that discovered it on their own. In the early 1900's, the Chase Park Warehouses served mainly as a cotton depot with trains loading and unloading goods through the train tracks in the front and the back. Jump to the 1970's and the Warehouses became completely vacant until the 1990's. I found some of my favorite finds in this place; it was an odd place and there were may strange items lurking in the shadows then. All my old memories seem surreal now - we didn't have any digital cameras then to snap photos and it is hard to believe what we used to see there ever existed.
When we bought this building, we discovered the neighboring concrete plant had dumped leftover concrete into the old basement entrance. While jackhammering out 3-4 foot deep solid concrete a lady came over to check out what we were doing and told me about how the place was a hub for her and others who illegally traveled the freight trains. She said there would often be several people seeking shelter in The Tree Room when she arrived, using old 55 gallon drum barrels to burn leftover coal and stay warm (there is also a graffiti picturing this). At that time, the place was all boarded except for a small hole that you could crawl through. The window openings were all closed in (as was the same when we bought it) and the only light came through the canopy of the mulberry tree. Whatever the real history, we felt The Tree Room belonged to Athens and had earned the right to be preserved for the next generations. I see people drop in every day that I'm here and get a little bit of the sense of discovery that I felt when I first crawled through a small opening to glimpse the tree growing inside that building.
- Ashley Booher & Doug Booher, Co-Owners of the Tree Room