The Devil Queen

How my wife and I sold our souls to the Queen Anne Victorian we tried to save.

My Photo
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, September 20, 2005

A Running Start

Work on the Devil Queen is picking up its pace this week. It is amazing. Tony, probably one of the best contractors in our part of the world, started work last Friday. I didn't make it up to the Queen after work Monday. I'm very curious to see what he's finished so far. What he did finish last Friday (photos below, posted yesterday) is beautiful.

Charlie wants to get the all the waterlines run this week. Since my wife was waiting on some prospective buyers to come look at our blue-monkey house yesterday, he recruited my mother-in-law to help him. They are going back up to the Queen again today.

While my mother-in-law was up at the Queen, she talked with Tony. It turns out that he really didn't want to work on the Queen. Why did he do it then? His wife made him.

Tony is a very busy man. It took us nearly a week to get a hold of him on the phone. Most of the time he isn't there, so we talked to his wife. His wife is a lovely lady, very sweet and intelligent (she handles the books for his business).

The first time I spoke with her she didn't sound too sure that Tony would have time to work on the Devil Queen.

"He's awfully busy," she said. "He is finishing off a project now, and we are remodeling our house too. Then, he is going to start building an 11,000 square foot home. It'll probably take him 10 months to complete it. Are there any other carpenters that you have in mind?"

"Well, Tony is the best one we've found, so no. We're really hoping to get him."

Somehow, she seemed both surprised and pleased by this. She had him call us back and arranged for him to meet us to talk over the project.

After talking to us on the phone he told his wife that he, "really didn't want to work on that old house. It's a mess. I'm just not going to do it."

She told him she thought, "those kids," really need the help. He maintained that it was a terrible house to work on, she just didn't know how bad it was. He brought her up to the house to meet with us that weekend so he could show her what a terrible project it was.

Two Sundays ago, we met them both at the Queen. Tony's wife thought the house looked beautiful (as in it has a lot of potential). She also seemed to like my wife and I (she says that I remind her of her son, I think that is a good thing). I'm not sure if it was something we said or did, but after that meeting we had Tony.

As he told my mother-in-law, his wife was the deciding factor. "So, here I am working on this damn, old house," Tony said.

While Tony mostly does new construction, it turns out he has a very thorough knowledge of the "old way" of doing things. He learned carpentry from some old-timer that refused to show him the "new" way of doing things until he'd mastered all the traditional carpentry skills. That way he could really appreciate the newer methods of building. We hired Tony because we like him AND he does excellent work. But, by dumb luck, he is also probably one the only contractors around with extensive "old house" experience.

My wife also called our brick mason. He will be out at the Queen the first week of October to build our fireplaces. The original fireplaces were demolished for two reasons.

1) They were structurally unsound. The bricks were made locally (we believe) out of fired clay. After 110 years of use, you could crumble them to dust with your bare hands. The mortar was shot too. After we got the chimney out, I was amazed the Queen hadn't burned down years ago. The inside of the wood walls next to the chimney were scorched black.

2) The Queen could not be moved with intact fireplaces. The fireplaces were built on a crude foundation of huge rocks, sand, and mortar sitting directly on the ground. Even if the chimney wasn't on the verge of collapsing, there was no way to get under the loose pile of foundation, stabilize it, and jack it up with the house.

We'd originally hoped to use the bricks salvaged from the crawlspace to rebuild the chimney. The bricks used for the crawlspace were added to the house sometime between 1900-1920. They are Coffeyville Bricks from Coffeyville, Kansas. They are made from fired slate and they are as good today as they were when they were made. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough of them, and we couldn't find any modern bricks that matched them (Coffeyville Bricks went out of business in the 1960's I believe). We bought 3000 Acme Bricks of a similar color for our fireplaces.

As with a lot of the major projects on the Queen, this one has been dragging on forever. It's been so long, I can't even remember when everything happened. We bought the bricks about a year (?) ago. Sometime after that we poured the foundation for the fireplaces. We had to custom order the fireplace tiles and fire boxes from Acme. They finally got them in about a month ago and they are waiting for our mason to pick them up. If we get the fireplaces in before Thanksgiving, it will be miraculous. If we have all the materials, the weather stays good, and our mason makes it out on time, it should take about 2 weeks for the fireplaces to be built.

It's all very exciting. If we just had our financial situation settled, it'd be great.

I'm going to make time to swing by the Queen on the way home tonight. Hopefully I get some pictures.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Free Web Site Counter
Website Counter