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!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Weekend Update

We had a gratifying weekend at the Queen. It is always nice when there are visible signs of progress.

We borrowed a single set of scaffolding from my mother-in-law and set it up in the kitchen. My wife spent most of the weekend scraping and sanding the old paint off the kitchen walls and ceiling. The scaffolding helped a lot. It is much easier to work from a standing position than hanging like a monkey from a ladder.

The scaffolding also lets us reach all of the hundreds of staples stuck in the middle of the kitchen ceiling. In the 1950's or 1960's, someone covered the ceiling in cardboard-like ceiling tiles which were attached with a generous number of staples. The tiles came down, but the staples have not.

My father-in-law worked on our electricity too. After some major effort and frustration on his part, our breaker-box is now connected to the main power line. We still need to run four or five feet of conduit out of the top of the meter-box, attach a "rain cap" (the cap that tops off the conduit that allows the main power line in to the meter while keeping the rain out), and run two hots and the ground out of the cap and we are ready to be hooked up.

Getting the electricity to the Queen has been a major ordeal which stretches back to the beginning of recorded history. The Queen's vanity is a major reason for this. What is the point of spending all of your money and time on restoring a house to its historic appearance if you're just going to bolt a meter-box its side and hang a huge, gangly wire from it. The obvious solution was burying the power line to the house.

Getting someone with a backhoe to dig out a trench for the wire wasn't too hard. The problem was that we miss calculated a few things on the front end of the project. That left us hand digging the last 60 feet of trench by hand. If we lived somewhere with dirt, this might not have been too bad.

For those of you not familiar with Arkansas, most of the state is sold rock covered with a thin veneer of clay which passes for dirt. The Delta might be an exception, but I have no desire to drive down there to find out. I'm driven wild with envy when I see some S.O.B. on This Old House or the Home and Garden channel slicing through black dirt with their shovel like it was hot butter. I want to kick them in the teeth if they have the audacity to actually complain about how hard it is.

Planting a small vegetable garden in Arkansas requires the same amount of preparation and work as open-pit mining. A pick ax, pry-bar, and, occasionally, a sledge hammer are required in addition to the usual shovel and hoe. Since the War on Terror began, the local authorities frown on the use of dynamite.

If you are looking for a cardiovascular workout, I highly recommend laying electrical cable. In our case we had to lay three 280 foot cables (approximately 1/2-3/4 thick if you count the insulation jacket around the copper) and then thread them through a single two inch conduit. It's like treading 10 foot long pearls on a 280 foot necklace.

Knock on wood and keep your fingers crossed, if we are lucky, the Queen may have electricity by July.

I made some minor repairs to a kitchen window and started hanging wallboard in the pantry. So far it is looking good. Minus baseboards and crown molding, the pantry may be finish next weekend.

We may also begin painting the kitchen in the next week or two.

Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to play mad scientist with the UV heater. Maybe next weekend?

My wife is tracking down a recent lead on the Queen's history. It turns out that the late Vestal Boswell's (son of the Van Boswell, builder of the Queen, by his third marriage) second wife, Lois Boswell, is still alive. She is 86 years old and living in a nursing home in Springfield, Missouri.

It turns out that she has been by the Queen since she was moved. I'm not sure when or why. We're trying to contact her to see what she knows about the Queen. Wish us luck.


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