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!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Mid-Week Mania

We had a very productive day Thursday.

The two diagrams below are my attempt to illustrate our project.

The original entryway from the dining room to the kitchen was a standard size doorway situated on the left side of the wall dividing the two rooms. In an attempt to increase the usable counter space in the kitchen and to improve the aesthetics, we decided to move the doorway. We wanted to place it in the middle of the wall and to upgrade the door itself. Instead of the standard, rectangular door we bought a salvaged French door (it is from a house that was demolished in Russellville. A church bought a whole city block of Bungalows and Carpenter Victorians for a new parking lot). It is arched and has two glass doors.

Unfortunately, the doors and the jamb are in pretty rough shape. It's previous owners converted it from a exterior door to a fixed window. They encased the bottom of the doors in plywood and added a sill. They also caulked and nailed the hell out of it to keep it closed. It took us a full day to remove all the nails, paint, caulk and atrocious modifications just get the two doors out in one piece (sort of). The enclosure that converted the doors into a window also trapped moisture. Over the years, rot slowly ate away the bottom pieces of the doors. Repairing it will be a difficult and time consuming process. Fortunately, getting the doors in isn't top priority and the jamb is structurally sound. We're just going to put the jamb in and wait to install the doors later.

The first step of this project was twofold. One, we had to remove all the wallboards from the bottom nine feet of both sides of the wall. Two, we had to reinstall two ceiling boards that had fallen down when we tore out the decrepit cook-stove chimney. One was still dangling from the ceiling directly in front of out new doorway. It was a hazard and a nuisance, so they had to go.

While my sister, wife, and dad pulled down the wallboard, I set up the ladders, jacks and braces for the ceiling boards. Like the rest of the house, the ceiling boards are all tongue and groove. They also suffered the worst when we moved the Queen. The combination of rain, movement, and other stresses loosened a lot of nails holding them up. The rain caused some of them to warp too. This made fitting the tongue and groove joints together extremely challenging.

First we had to pull all the nails from the boards and the ceiling joists. Then (as crudely illustrated below) we worked the tongue and groove joint together, the two loose boards making a "V" if viewed from the end.

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We pushed the boards up into position and held them in place. Working from one end, we'd jack the boards up until we flattened the "V." In doing so, we popped all the tongue and groove joints together and pressed the boards tightly against the ceiling joists. I then used finishing screws the fasten them in place. The preparation took a lot more time than the actual job of popping them into place.

Instead of using a heavy-duty jack (the one we usually use for jacking up floors), we used my father-in-law's two-ton car jack. It is light weight and much easier to use. It works great on light jobs, I highly recommend it for small projects.

Once we finished with the ceiling and pulling down the wallboards, the job was pretty straight forward. It was not pleasant or easy, but it was basic carpentry. It took us all day, but by 6:30 PM (we started at 9:30 AM and took an hour for lunch) we were finished with the new rough-in (see the photos below).

I still have to do some minor framing to close in the old doorway and then hang all the wallboards. It shouldn't be too bad provided there is enough wood to completely close up the wall. We managed to pull the nails out of most of the wallboards already, so that's a plus.

If we keep up this pace, our kitchen will be painted, wired, and have a new floor laid in three or four weeks. Then, we can install the cabinets, counter top, and sink. It'll need some finishing work after that, but it'll be basically finished and functional.

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