One of Marion County’s newest businesses and tourist attractions — Bolt Farm Treehouse, Tennessee — is the result of a dream honeymoon. When Seth Bolt asked his girlfriend, now wife, Tori, to marry him, the young man who grew up in a small town in South Carolina wishing he had a treehouse, began to dream of a fairytale treehouse to share with his bride on their honeymoon. To make this dream come true, Bolt enlisted the help of his father, Larry, a master builder. Bolt grew up on construction sites, learning the trade by helping his dad. Together in 2015, they began construction on a stunning luxury treehouse that blends into the South Carolina landscape of the family farm. The first tree house was completed in early 2016 in plenty of time for Seth and Tori’s May wedding.
“Seth wanted the treehouse to be worthy of our honeymoon,” said Tori. “He designed and built it for me.
“On our honeymoon, we doubled down on the idea of building treehouses as a business. To fulfill that dream, we lived in a camper on site, like we are now, and in 2018 built four more treehouses on Wadmalaw Island, just outside of Charleston, South Carolina. They are now some of the most popular rentals on Airbnb.”
Bolt, a musician and founding member of the band Needtobreathe, has spent much of the past 20 years on the road, touring. However, the 2020 shutdown of live concerts due to COVID-19 restrictions found the Bolts sheltering at home and looking for other creative pursuits rather than performing on the road.
“Seth and the band did some writing and recording during that time, preparing for the release of a new album,” said Tori, “but we were also thinking about another building project.
“While Seth was touring with the band, they frequently traveled Interstate 24, and every time he crossed Nickajack Lake, he thought how much he would love to have a place there. We got online, looking for properties in areas where we thought we might want to build, and while searching for available sites, we found this Whitwell Mountain property on the bluff overlooking the Sequatchie Valley with a view all the way to the lake. We couldn’t believe the luck!
“In May of 2020, we came to Whitwell Mountain to look at it. The owner, Doug Eaves, let us camp out on the site in June of 2020 while the paperwork for the financing was going on, and we have been living here, in our camper, full-time since January of 2021. It has been about a year now since we first visited the site, so we have seen the property in all four seasons.
“Our process when developing a new property is to first explore it, looking for the best natural features. We knew from photos that this property had one waterfall, but while out hiking, we discovered another one. What a great bonus! The property determines the layout of the structures and the plans for the individual buildings. Nature and the lay of the land are the influences for our designs. We start with the setting. We look for the spots with the best views, the best locations for nature trails and viewing the sunrise.
“We also use the properties’ features to determine the color schemes, and we try to incorporate local materials into the design. For example, we are using local stone for the floors of our outdoor showers. Seth and I are very hands-on. Seth is out working with the building crews almost every day. We work hard, but it doesn’t feel like work. We also do our own interior decoration. We like to use rustic materials that fit in with the setting. We scour the antique shops and flea markets across the South, looking for antique doors, windows and furnishings to make each home unique. Most people assume that I am the one behind the interior design, but it’s Seth who has the eye for design. We are big believers in the environment of our properties — all the little details that make for a perfect experience.
“People love the treehouses for the soul rest and spirit lift they get. We want our guests to reconnect with what is important to them, their ‘people’ — those they love, their purpose and the natural world. We recommend that they put their phones on airplane mode and disconnect from the outside world while they are our guests and to really take advantage of the peace of the natural setting. Those who do truly get the benefit of the stay. These retreats do work. We have received comments such as, ‘This weekend saved our marriage,’ and, ‘I have rediscovered my best friend.’
“We feel so lucky to have received this God-given calling to create theses spaces — something with a lasting impact on our guests.
“We can’t imagine a more beautiful setting than this one on Whitwell Mountain, and I can’t say enough about the warm welcome and acceptance we have received. We feel a real connection to the community and want to give back. We are developing this property as a way to fulfill our dreams, but we want to encourage others in the community to take the leap and start their dream business. We can accommodate approximately 5,000 guests each year. Other local entrepreneurs will also have the opportunity to serve these visitors during their stay — whether they want to open a coffee shop, a restaurant, a boutique or an ‘experience’ business where guests can come to hike nature trails, rock climb, milk a goat, view wildlife, try parasailing, learn a craft or any other type of experience that a visitor might enjoy. We encourage you to make it happen, and we can help provide a customer base.
“We are also happy to be providing jobs for local people. During the development stage, we have hired many skilled local builders and craftsmen. And we are so lucky to have the previous owner, Doug Eaves, who knows and loves this property as much as we do, working with us as well. When we open in June, we will be employing cleaners, maintenance people and landscapers on a permanent basis.
“All of this has come from our dreams in the first year of our marriage and our honeymoon home. When we open in June, we will be celebrating our wedding anniversary with our guests and the community at this property, the result of our dreams. We are thrilled to be here.”