The Devil Queen

How my wife and I sold our souls to the Queen Anne Victorian we tried to save.

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Location: Crow Mountain, Arkansas, United States

Synopsis: This is a cautionary tale. A seriously disturbed couple find the charming, old ruin of a Queen Anne Victorian in Russellville, Arkansas, and buy it for $1.00. They tore the roof off, cut it in half, and had it moved to some land they owned sixteen miles away because they didn't know any better. Since then, they have hired and fired contractors, had all of their tools stolen, re-wired, re-plumbed, insulated, and essentially rebuilt the entire house. Their only problem is that after four years it still isn't finished. Now they are tired, broke, and wonder what in the hell it is they've done to themselves. And, it's haunted.
(Last updated on April 3, 2008)

Press: Russellville Courier Article - December 2003, HGTV website article, AP story - October 2006, and Victorian Homes Magazine - February 2008 (link coming soon).
Art: From time to time, I receive requests for my art. If you would like to look at more of my art, go to The Failed Artist. If you would like to buy my art, email me. I am more than happy to answer any questions you might have. Thanks!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Getting Started

A little bit of knowledge is dangerous.

My wife and I have both worked in the real estate appraisal business. As one might expect, we've seen a lot of houses of every description. On one appraisal of an old farm house, my wife noticed that the house had a very new foundation. Curious, she asked the head appraiser why that was. They responded that the house had been moved from its original site.

That is when the cartoon light-bulb lit up above my wife's head - "If they could do it, then so can I!"

For several years, we watched with dismay as all the old houses in our area slowly disappeared. We wanted to do something to save these old homes but were clueless as to what we should do. After we looked at the Queen together, my wife asked me if I thought that we could move the house.

"I don't see why not. A few years ago they moved a three story Victorian in downtown Little Rock," I said.

So, we started calling around. It was both an amusing and frustrating process. Locally, house movers apparently specialize in moving mobile homes or ranch houses very similar to mobile home - that is long, narrow rectangles. The Queen was neither. Some said that it was impossible to move her. The most honest one said that he figured that it could be moved, but he didn't figure that he could. One fellow told us that it couldn't be done and then contacted the folks at Eskimo Pie. Apparently, if I understand it all correctly, he was interested in obtaining the property for himself.

Having exhausted all of the local leads we expanded our search. I tracked down the article the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette had run on the moving of the three story Victorian. They mentioned the name of the house-mover that had overseen the project so we contacted him. They didn't service our area of the state, but he had a friend that did.

His friend, Dub Swink, runs a house moving business out of the Ft. Smith - Fayetteville area. I never figured out where the name came from, but the name of the business is Covey Home Movers. It is family business, so I also wondered why the business wasn't "Swink Home Movers."

Mr. Swink came out and looked at the house. He liked it. As my wife put it, "he just kept petting it." He gave us a quote on moving it (it came down to about $1000 a mile) and told us what all would need to be done to prepare it for the move. First, since the Queen's hip roof is so high, we would need to tear the roof off. Second, we needed to strip the brick skirting off the crawl space. Third, the plumbing, electricity, and natural gas lines all needed to be cut. Fourth, the front and back porches needed to come off. They were too rotten to be moved in his estimation. Once that was all done, he'd come out with his crew and cut the house in half and move it in two sections.

That list would probably be enough to scare most sane people off. Not us. We were overjoyed. It actually cost less than we'd expected (approximately $15,000.00 less) and we liked Mr. Swink. Armed with Mr. Swink's quote, we started negotiating with Eskimo Pie for the house. We also started looking for a construction loan. But, more of all of that later.

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