Our project in short
In the fall of 2002, my wife and I began negotiating to buy an 1890 Queen Anne Victorian in Russellville, Arkansas. Sounds simple enough, people are buying homes everyday. Why should this be any different? As it turns out, it was anything but simple.
The house was owned by the Eskimo Pie Factory. They had bought the house in the late 1990's for the lot. Their intention was to demolish the house to make additional parking for their 18-wheelers. Once they acquired the house, they became aware that Russellville's historical societies and like minded individuals were very interested in making sure the house wasn't demolished. One historical society approached the company with the proposal that they make the house into a museum. All the company needed to do was buy another lot in town, move the house, refurbish it, and give it to the society. The company decided they weren't interested. Instead they decided to do nothing. If they did nothing long enough, time and the elements would eat away at the house until it collapsed. Then, they could bulldoze it with a clean conscience
My wife has always had a fetish for the house. She grew up in Russellville and the neighboring town of Atkins. Her mom owned a flower shop (Ms. Scarlet's Flowers) in Russellville, and they often drove past the house on their way to and from the funeral home while delivering flowers. In the 1980's the house still had some of its old charm. The gingerbread trim was intact and the exterior was well maintained in general.
By 2002 the house was in sad shape. The gingerbread trim was rotting and falling off in chunks. The paint was peeling and the roof was caving in over the front door. Someone had broken in and stolen most of the door knobs, locks, miscellaneous hardware, a claw-foot bathtub, and one of the two fireplace mantels. The house sat two blocks away from a coffee house we frequented. One Saturday afternoon in the fall my wife took me to see the house. We found the back door unlocked and toured it inside and out. If you could see past the neglect and the injury, it was a beautiful house. After some discussion, my wife decided to see if we could buy the house.
If I knew then what I know now, there is no way that I would have agreed to be a willing participant in this project. As of today, we have spent the last two and a half years working on this house in one way or another. It'll probably take another 6 months to get it into good enough shape that we could live in it. Currently, that isn't an option. There are no working bathrooms, no electricity, and no heating or air conditioning. What started as a project that we willingly poured ourselves into became an infernal enslavement.
Remember, be careful of what you wish for.
For good or ill, it has been an interesting ride. I've been thinking about writing about this ill-conceived venture for a while, and now seems to be the time to do it. I hope to be able to post some photos and the history of the house in the near future. Once I do that, I hope to bring our story up to the present. Hope you enjoy.