By Julie Engebretson
The historic Castle Heights section of Waco’s Austin Avenue is known for its grand, multi-level homes and impressive price tags and occasional appearances on HGTV’s Fixer Upper. But there is one notably humble domicile in the area that stands apart, and not because of any help from Chip and Joanna Gaines.
Dr. Blake Burleson, associate dean for undergraduate studies, strategic and enrollment initiatives in the College of Arts & Sciences, worked on Saturdays and University holidays for two years to complete his 160-square-foot, fully operational tiny house. Nestled in a heavily wooded section of his backyard in Castle Heights, he now uses the space as a study that Walden’s Henry David Thoreau would love.
“I call it a hermitage,” said Burleson, who in addition to his administrative role is a senior lecturer of religion. “I’m there every morning at 7 o’clock, working on books, articles and research. Whatever it is I’m working on, I’m doing it there in the house.”
The tiny house — complete with a kitchen, bathroom and small overhead loft space for a bed — was built mainly with used materials purchased from Waco’s Habitat for Humanity ReStore, a nonprofit home improvement store selling new and used furniture, appliances, building materials and other items. Proceeds from these sales help build homes and related infrastructure for communities in need all over the world.
“The foundation is actually a double-axle trailer, so it’s on four wheels,” Burleson said. “It’s very sturdy. That was the biggest expense really. But, yeah, you can just pull the whole house out with a truck.”
When he began construction, word spread quickly about Burleson’s tiny project and several faculty and other co-workers began asking questions.
“People were curious about what I was doing,” Burleson said. “So, I sort of shared my progress along with way on Facebook. And then when I was finished, I hosted an open house so people could come and see.”
Burleson’s initial plan was to pull the house all the way to Colorado to occupy a piece of property he owns there. But he didn’t anticipate just how much he would enjoy the daily retreat to his own backyard.
“It’s in an area on the lot that’s wooded, so when you look outside, it’s like you’re in the country,” he said. “Even though I live in town, the area has a lot of trees and I just let it grow. Maybe at some point, I’ll build another tiny house and take that to Colorado.”
This article first appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of Baylor Arts & Sciences magazine, the official publication of the Baylor University College of Arts & Sciences.