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 23, 2005

Slings, Arrows, and Idiots

If you want to make your life exponentially more difficult, do something atypical. Nobody wants to do anything different than what is expected, particularly banks.

My wife and I are not independently wealthy, but we have good credit. Trying to get a construction loan for moving and renovating the Queen was like living in Kafka's head. My favorite bank interview (minus the one where someone was willing to do business with us) is the one where the banker told us, "you have excellent credit, but we just can't make a loan for moving the house. However, once you move it, we'd be more than happy to refinance your mortgage." Isn't that helpful?

Even though we have no proof, my wife and I suspect that part of our problem is that we are young and look even younger. I guess when virtually everyone you deal with is 20+ years older than you, you must seem ridiculously young to them by comparison. I soon discovered that wearing a suit helped me look my actual age, but I'm not sure how much it helped. It did cut down on some of the condescension, which was nice.

This phantom youth-factor wasn't limited to bankers. Contractors were even worse in some ways. Since I work in Little Rock (70 miles away), my wife dealt with the contractors. She is also a shrewd, hard-ass negotiator. I am not. Most contractors saw her and thought, "young, woman, and bank loan - stupid with money." She got some truly obscene bids on our project. One man told her that it would cost $25,000 to demolish the roof. We did for about one sixth of this amount.

My wife wrote a feature story about moving the Queen in late 2003. The Russellville Courier-Democrat ran it as their front page story one weekend. I am planning to post her story because is quite good. She is a much better writer than me. One thing that she writes about that I will mention here are the thieves.

The Queen's original location in Russellville is surrounded by commercial buildings and a couple of vacant houses. After 5 PM the streets are deserted. Once James and James had started pulling the roof down, people assumed that the Queen was being demolished. As such, they felt free to help themselves to whatever they wanted. Fortunately, the manager of Eskimo Pie started driving by the site in the evening after work. He stopped more than one person loading up their pick up truck with bricks or foundation stones. I started coming by at night a few times a week to make sure no one was driving off with our materials. My wife called the Russellville police and they started patrolling the area too. We posted "Keep Out" and "No Trespassing" signs all over the property.

During the day a local woman came over to talk to my wife about the project. She had an old house in Russellville too and was very interested in it. My wife explained that we were moving it and restoring the Queen. The next day while James and James were working on the roof, she came back and started fishing wood out of our salvage pile.

Talking James asked her, "What in the hell are you doing?!"

"I need some wood for my house," she replied.

"You can't have that, they're reusing it."

"Well I need it, I've been paying $8.00 a linear foot for this kind of wood."

"I don't care, put it back!"

"Well, I'll send my carpenter over!"

"Why?"

"I'll send him over."

"Leave!"

She jumped into her car, slammed the door, and drove off leaving the wood behind.

I found it interesting that none of the people trying to steal from us were poor. They weren't taking it to resell so they could feed their families. They drove nice cars, had nice homes, and had money. It could make a good piece of social commentary I suppose.

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