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!

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

We had a nice, long Memorial Day weekend, but we didn't work on the Queen. One of my wife's cousins got married so we spent most of the weekend on the road. On the up side, we did get to see some lovely Victorian and Plantation homes in Lake Providence, Louisiana.

There is some exciting news to note. First, a friend of a friend contacted my mother-in-law. Through this long line folks, we've received word that one of the grandchildren of Van Boswell, the builder of the Queen, is looking for us. She has photos and other information about the house if we are interested. To say that we are interested is an understatement. I believe she lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas. We are going to try to contact her this week. Wish us luck.

The other bit of news is that I finally got my Quartz Space heater off of eBay. I'm going to start working on our UV paint stripper this week.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

I hope the floor plan below is some help to those of you not familiar with our house.

We got a good bit of work done last weekend. The master bath floor went a lot faster than I had expected. We've finally gotten all the bugs worked out of the compressor and nail gun, that helped a lot. I say "bugs" but overcoming our own ignorance was the real challenge.

We couldn't get the compressor to power up, it kept popping the breaker. The problem was that our extension cord was too long and to small of a gauge to pull enough power for the compressor. My father-in-law was kind enough to run huge-gauge wire from the temporary pole to the Queen. Our compressor problem was then solved. Then we ran out of nails. That sounds easy enough to remedy, doesn't it?

The nail gun is borrowed, so my wife and I are not too familiar with it. The nails we bought were the wrong brand. Even though the nails were the right size (in theory) they wouldn't work with the nail-gun we have. They'd jam the gun every time you pulled the trigger. So back to Lowe's for the RIGHT nails. It's the stupid stuff that slows you down.

Our death-dance with Terminix has continued though I think that it may be over now. The collection agency has been calling us up until last week even though we paid it off five weeks ago. We tried calling Terminix in Russellville but they wouldn't talk to us. So, we called the Regional Manager. That pretty well took care of it. In a week or so we should know for sure. The whole episode was aggravating and ridiculous. It is almost a shame that it got resolved though; I was almost looking forward to getting our lawyer to sue them.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Devil Queen's Floor Plan. Posted by Hello

Fuzzy view of the wood floor in the rear hallway. May 22, 2005. Posted by Hello

The pantry/laundry addition with wood floors and insulation. May 22, 2005. Posted by Hello

Working on the final run in the master bathroom. May 22, 2005. Posted by Hello

Nailing down the final run of floor board in the master bathroom. Posted by Hello

Planing the master bathroom floor boards. May 2005. Posted by Hello

Salvaged double-hung window in the master bathroom. Posted by Hello

The Devil Queen's Kitchen, 2003. This room has been completely gutted. The cabinets and wood paneling are gone. The window over the kitchen sink has replaced the door on the left. The space formerly occupied by the window has been closed up. The nasty glue and masonite tiles have been removed as well. Posted by Hello

The Davis House, Atkins, Arkansas, 2004. This is the house that all of our salvaged wood floors, wall board, and siding came from. It was demolished in August (?) 2004. Posted by Hello

Thursday, May 19, 2005

We've had some good news in the last week. We've sought two second opinions regarding the value of our house upon completion. As I mentioned in a previous post, we believe that the bank's appraiser low-balled the value. Our second and third opinion are both 50%-80% higher than the original value. We may be able to leverage some more cash out of the Queen to finish this project. This has provided a small measure of hope.

Recently, I've been thinking a lot about our house's wood siding. This preoccupation is rooted in a couple problems confronting us on this project. First, our contractor has vanished and we are in the process of finding yet another one. If we don't have one come out soon, we will be forced to move three stacks of lumber to protect it from rain, bugs, and rot. That will probably eat up half to an entire day's worth of work, and I'd rather not have to do that. Second, even when (if?) we get all the siding up, we still have thousands of square feet of paint to scrape off the original house.

For those of you that haven't had to pleasure of scraping copious amounts paint, it is wonderful process that is never ending. My wife spent over three hours scraping off a single door jamb. We've tried heavy-duty chemical strippers, eco-friendly strippers, and a pressure washer. None have impressed us.

You can imagine our excitement when This Old House Magazine reviewed a new type of paint stripper, the Silent Paint Remover. A herd of mutes with paint scrapers? Hardly! The Silent Paint Remover uses an ultra-violet light to heat and strip paint. It doesn't heat the paint to as high of a temperature as a heat gun, which can set your house on fire if you are careless or unlucky. It also strips all layers of the paint at once. First heat the area you wish to scrape for 15-30 seconds, then give it a quick couple of swipes with your scraper. The paint is gone and the wood is immediately ready to paint. Great, right? Yes, if you can afford it. The price tag for one of these wonders is currently $465.00 according to Viking Sales Inc., the manufacturer of the Silent Paint Remover.

At this point, we'd have to sell organs on the black market to get one of these. Then I discovered this website:

This site is great! An electrical engineer disgruntled with the Silent Paint Remover's price tag figured out how to build your own for only $40-$100. He then published photos, schematics, and instructions of how to do it on his website. I'm currently scouring eBay and Lowe's for all the parts I need. Once I build it, I'll post how well it goes. Wish me luck.

So, why bother with wood at all?

Personally, I just prefer the look and feel of it. It has a character that I have yet to see duplicated with vinyl, concrete, masonite, et cetera.

Wood is also very versatile; with patience and the right tools you can make it do almost anything.

Vinyl, the current siding of choice it seems, while low maintenance, is not good for you or the environment. If you'd like more details, please go to In short, the process used to make it is highly toxic, it doesn't biodegrade, and it releases poisonous gases when burned (I can't remember what gas, but I believe that it is cyanide).

As far as I know, there is no way to recycle vinyl siding. If there is, it's not available in Arkansas. The Queen came clad in snazzy, mint green siding. To the shock of many, we striped all of it off the house. We've given most of it away, so it is being recycled in a fashion. The few scraps left will go to the landfill. I feel a bit guilty for this, but I haven't been able to find an alternative.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

We finally downloaded some photos from a couple weeks ago as seen below. I'm not too pleased with the quality of some of our photos. We have a pretty low-end digital camera. My wife is the only one that can take reasonably good photos with it. Most of the ones I take don't come out. You have to stand motionless like a statue to keep it from blurring and it's very light sensitive. Most of the better images on this blog were taken with a 35mm camera. Once the photos were developed, we scanned them into the computer.

Unfortunately, our laptop is in its twilight years. I'm not sure how much longer it will keep on struggling. I figure it has a fifty-fifty chance of dying a natural death or meeting a violent end. Every time it crashes it creeps one step closer to being thrown out the front door. My wife killed the radio this way. The stove was bludgeoned to death with a hammer. Our laptop should be very nervous.

May 8, 2005 photo of our bathroom/laundry room with its new wood floor and corner tub. The picture doesn't do the floor justice. Posted by Hello

Dinning Room, 2004. This is the dinning room as we found it minus the carpet we pulled out in 2003. Posted by Hello

Dining Room. May 7, 2005. The photo is crap, but it is all I have for now. The wood paneling has been stripped, the maroon, masonite tiles pulled up, and most of the woodstove chimney has be torn out. The original walls are three-quarter-inch tongue-and-groove wall boards. They were originally wallpapered but never painted. We are going to tear out the quarter-inch drywall they ringed the upper four feet of the room with. Then we are going to pull all of the nails and tacks out of the wall boards. After that, we'll pressure wash the room. Once it is dry we'll probably rub the walls down with oil (linseed or Dutch) and call it done.Posted by Hello

Hall Bath as of May 7, 2005. The black area of the floor is tarpaper laid over the plywood underlyment. You can see the shower drain sticking up through the middle of it. We are busy working on the other two bathrooms, so this is all we are going to be doing with the hall bath for a while. Posted by Hello

Half of the Devil Queen promenading down Main Street in Russellville in 2003. Posted by Hello

Here is the same half of the Queen crossing Crow Mountain. The guy standing on the top of her was responsible for lifting the power lines over the house. He'd grab the wire at the front end and jump from joist to joist to the back of the house. Posted by Hello

Mr. Dub Swink and his crew standing in front of the Queen at her new site, 2003. Posted by Hello

The Queen being crowned by James and James, 2003. Posted by Hello

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Weekend Update

We got a lot done this weekend.

We finished laying all of the wood flooring in the pantry/laundry addition of the house. Even in the rough shape it is in, it looks great. Our next flooring project is the master bathroom. As an experiment, we brought Charlie's planer up to the Queen and ran all of the floor boards for the master bathroom through it. They look fabulous. All of the dirt, gouges, stains, and old finish came off revealing lots of golden-yellow pine. We cut all the boards to length, so all we have to do now is lay them. With the exception of working around a plumbing rough-in, it should be a fairly easy job. Since we've planed all of the wood, we should be able to skip sanding it before we refinish it.

While my wife, Charlie, and I were working on the floors, Jack was helping us with our electrical system. He has finish running all the electrical wiring through the house from the breaker box. Now he has to start attaching everything to switches, outlets, et cetera. He also buried the last ten feet of power line to where our permanent meter box will go (see 300 Freaking Pounds of Rock, below).

As a bonus, we also found our digital camera. We should have more photos posted soon.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Without a Wing or a Prayer?

Well, the blog may be without photos for a while. Our digital camera disappeared sometime during our last work day at the Queen. We've spent over an hour and a half searching the Queen and have yet to find it. Something else has vanished as well, our contractor. Despite our best efforts, we haven't been able to find him either. Some of his equipment is still there, but we are assuming that he isn't coming back since he hasn't returned any of our calls.


Thursday, May 12, 2005

Countdown to Our Own Personal Apocalypse

Last week we went to sign some papers at the bank for a 6 month extension on our construction loan. We also got to pay the interest on the loan to date. That hurt. As I understand it, this is our final extension on the loan. The bank is very interested in having a finished product at the end of this six months. November 7, 2005 is the due date, our own personal Doomsday.

You've seen the photos to date. Do you think we'll make it? Any bets?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Why I'm A Misanthrope - Reason 127

This afternoon I'm reminded why I'm fixing up a house in the middle of nowhere. I hate people.

There are a lot of termites out and around the house site. Really, is there any place without termites? I really don't know. About a year ago, my wife and I had Terminix come out and give us a quote. We decided to sign up with them. As part of the whole deal, they need a down-payment. My wife used her credit card and we thought that every thing was taken care of. We've made our regular payments and had no problems until last month.

A month ago we get a call from Ms. Cametria at some collection agency. It took me forever to figure what in the hell she was talking about. To the best of my knowledge, we were not overdue on our payments for anything. Terminix? Didn't I just send y'all a check?

After nearly and hour of calling around, I figured out that she was trying to collect the down payment we'd already made. I went through all of our credit card accounts. No one anywhere had ever billed us for the down payment. I'm not sure what that Terminix guy did with my wife's credit card, but it didn't involve a financial transaction. What makes no sense to me is, why didn't Terminix call or write us about this missing payment? They have our address and phone number. Is contacting an collection agency that much easier than contacting us?

I called the Russellville Terminix office and explained everything to them. They said that if we'd pay the down-payment now, they'd call the collection agency and make sure that this didn't show on our credit report. Fine. I mailed the check on April 18th. At the end of April, I called Terminix to confirm that they'd received the check. They said yes and they'd taken care of it.

Then, Cametria called us again today. Same spiel as before, we want our money. So I call our bank to confirm that the check was cashed (which it was on the 5th of this month). Then I call Terminix again. They apologize and say that they'll call the collection agency right away, et cetera. I called the collection agency and spoke with lovely Cametria, ignoring the snide, "I didn't expect you to respond so soon."

"I paid Terminix directly on the 18th of April, they cashed it on the 5th of May, and they are going to call you all to confirm this. If they don't, I know you'll call me back and I'll take care of it," I said.

"Okay, well, I'll note that here," Cametria said. I'm curious if she really did. I suppose that if I get any more dumbass calls, I'll know for sure.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Cassandria Anne Tate (1880-1898), second wife of Ransom 'Van' Newton Vandorn Boswell. She is buried at Norristown Cemetary, Pope County, Arkansas. This photo of her dates to 1896. She had one child named Emma Boswell. She was born on July 22, 1897.

I found this picture online at Cassandria's picture is the only photo of a former resident of the Queen that we've found. The Boswell family seems to have died out locally. The only living members of the family I've located live in California. They are the direct descendants of Cassandria and Emma.
Posted by Hello

I was hoping for some more photos, but we left our digital camera up at the Queen. Spent a couple hours Saturday finishing off the subflooring for the hall bath. Spent the rest of the weekend working on the pantry/laundry room's wood floor. It went well but took a lot longer than we'd anticipated.

All the "new" wood flooring we are using in the master bath and the pantry/laundry room were salvaged from an older home, The Davis House, in Atkins. It is pine, tongue-and-groove flooring. It is about 3 1/2 inches wide and up to 16 feet long.

The Davis House is with us no more. The owners, three brothers, bought it as an investment property. They had it zoned commercial which wasn't hard. The new Bank of Dardanelle is next to it, and you can see the Dollar General, two gas stations, and Sonic from where the house was. They tried selling it as is, but no one was interested. So, in the end, they bull-dozed it and set it on fire. A few months later the lot sold.

On the one hand, my wife and I felt bad for tearing up an old house. How can you be for saving historic buildings while you're tearing one down? On the other hand, it would be demolished with or without us. We decided it would be better to save some of it than to just let it get knocked down and burned.

We hauled off all the pine flooring, about a third of the wood siding, a couple of double hung windows, and all of the bead-board ceilings. We also found a family tree (Davis family) on two typed sheets of paper, 8 solid wood doors with original hardware and jambs, a box of 50 year old mason jars, some old copies of the Atkins Chronicle (the local paper, dating to the 1950's), and a couple of light fixtures. Since we are insane, we actually thought that we could get more out of the house while working on the Devil Queen. I really wanted to strip the Davis House down far enough to haul off the 2 x 4's for an art studio. We didn't make it in time though. I can't even begin to explain how disheartening that was.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Transom Doorway in Hall Bath. This is the view from inside the bath looking out into the hall. The gapping hole in the wall was there when we stripped all the wood panel out. There was an enourmous, cast-iron vent pipe run through here which I pulled out before the new door went in. I'm guessing this hole was cut out when they originally plumbed the house. Posted by Hello

The Rough-In for the New Master Bathroom Door. We took out the standard sized door so we can install one with a transom. My wife and her step-father expanded this rough-in. Posted by Hello

300 Feaking Pounds of Rock. You can't really tell how big this rock is from the picture, maybe a quarter of it is sticking out of the ground. My Step-Father-In-Law (nice mouthful, isn't it?) and I managed to roll this monster out of the trench. Lifting it was not an option. All of this just for a buried electric line to the house. Posted by Hello

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