An Arizona couple’s backyard is the most popular one in the neighborhood thanks to an authentic, 35-foot-tall pirate ship treehouse that looks like it is straight from a “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie.
Steven Hill, 48, a retired attorney, spent the past 14 months building the structure by hand, using an estimated one ton of lumber.
“It took a lot of math, calculation, stress, engineering and tension,” Hill said. “I built it to last.”
Hill said he first got the idea for a treehouse when he and his wife, Lisa, moved into their home in Casa Grande about two years ago. The home’s backyard featured a ponderosa pine tree -- a rarity in Arizona -- the perfect setting for a treehouse.
Hill’s fascination with the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies inspired him to give the treehouse a decidedly pirate theme.
“I can remember as a kid watching ‘Star Wars’ when it first came out probably 100 times,” Hill said. “Since then I’d go and see a movie once, maybe twice, until the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ series came out and I became a kid again myself.”
Hill, who does not have children of his own, decided he want to build a pirate ship that would match the ships in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies to give local kids a sense of history.
“If it weren’t for these movies by Disney most kids would have no idea what the ship is or why it looks the way it does or anything,” he said. “The movies have reminded children that there was a time in our history when things were very different.”
Hill's father and grandfather worked as set designers in Burbank, California. He said his grandfather, Roland E. Hill Sr., met Walt Disney in France during World War I and helped design the castle in Disneyland.
"They became lifelong friends," Hill said of his grandfather and Disney. The "Pirates of the Caribbean" films are produced by The Walt Disney Co., the parent company of ABC News.
Hill used lumber donated by his local Home Depot store to build the pirate ship and accessorized it with finds purchased from the Salvation Army and Goodwill.
The ship, which now occupies nearly all of Hill’s backyard, stands 40 feet in length from stem to stern and about 35-feet-tall.
“The crow’s nest is actually now the tallest structure in Casa Grande,” Hill said.
Hill cut a doorway in his back gate so that neighborhood children can come play in the treehouse whenever they’d like. He is also planning to extend invitations to kids being treated for cancer and other youth groups to partake in the fun.
Hill called it “uplifting” to watch kids be taken “into another world” when they play on the treehouse. He also said he is now able to just sit back and enjoy it all because of the detail he put into the ship’s construction.
“My worst fear ... was if I didn’t build it strong enough I was going to have to go out there and fix things all the time,” he said. “I built this ship so strong that, fortunately, I don’t have to really go out and fix things.”