A simple wish for a pirate ship playhouse turned into a years-long quest that’s capturing the imaginations of both children and adults.
Read to see how a Texas couple went somewhat “overboard” to transform their backyard into a nautical pirate playland.
Where the Legend Began
It all started in 2015 when a swingset broke in Jeff Headrick’s backyard.
So Jeff, a master carpenter, decided to use his decades’ worth of building experience to construct a new place for his grandchildren to have fun outside.
When asked what kind of playhouse his grandchildren wanted, the kids, aged 1-9, decided on a miniature pirate ship.
Jeff’s wife Debbie says he drew up some rough sketches for the playhouse and constructed and deconstructed parts along the way. He wanted the project to “not only be perfectly square, but safe for his grandsons.”
Over the years, multiple levels were added and it grew bigger and bigger.
Now, the “miniature” pirate ship is held into the ground by 10 concrete piers, 25,000 screws, and has multiple levels that are large enough for an adult to stand up in.
So, how long did it take to complete this pirate ship? About five years — four years to construct the playhouse, and then another year or so to finish the surrounding features.
Jeff thought out every aspect of this construction, from child-friendly movable cannons to windows built to prevent accidental falls.
Maintaining a Pirate Ship Playhouse
Just because the pirate ship is complete doesn’t mean the work is over. Maintenance is a year-round endeavor, the Headricks say.
This includes staining and repainting, replacing ropes and spraying and treating the playhouse for termites and other insects.
The couple is also adding extra details surrounding the ship, like an under-the-sea mural on the fence. Debbie used more than a dozen cans of spray paint and real starfish she got on a trip to the Bahamas.
But, it’s all worth it, they say, because of the enjoyment their grandchildren, and neighbors, get out of the playhouse.
At this point, the “playhouse” in the Headricks’ backyard is more than just a playhouse. They see it as a small second house that they occasionally open to large audiences on special occasions.
The Headricks have opened up their backyard for Halloween for the past two years. In just four hours, 475 people came through to see the pirate ship in 2020 and 600 in 2021.
The family goes all-out for the occasion by dressing up in pirate costumes, providing a stockade for photo ops, treasure chests, spooky music, and more.
The couple has been very firm with keeping the ship private and only open for Halloween fun. However, they will give tours to those who ask and let children play.
“You’d be amazed at how many adults stop and ask if they can see it and take photos,” Debbie says.
What’s on the Horizon
Jeff and Debbie say their backyard “Peter Pan/Pirates of the Caribbean theme park” will continue on for future generations. Their five grown children have even bigger plans for the property when they inherit the property.
The wood and everything else will receive the same regular upkeep that it’s had over the past years, but there are plans to convert the backyard, which includes a pool, into a rental Airbnb property.
The children promise they’ll never sell the property and also have plans to convert two other backyard buildings (currently used as Halloween storage and another as a small record studio) into small cabins for renters as well.
The Headricks say there were some regrets after converting their backyard into a theme park, but they’re outweighed by the joy it brings their grandchildren.
Debbie advises that if someone else wants to do this, plan for regular maintenance and have someone else do the building.
There aren’t any blueprints for this pirate playhouse, so if you want to build one yourself, you’ll have to use your imagination.
However, if you do decide to build one, the couple has these words of advice: Be prepared for many people to stop and take pictures.
Follow the Pirate Ship Playhouse on Facebook for more photos and project updates.