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, January 04, 2006

From Peasant to Princess

The Devil Queen arose from the frontier wilderness of Arkansas. She hid her humble origins behind a rich façade of gingerbread millwork and fine lines. The vernacular home turned her upscale, young, beautiful face out for the whole world to see and admire. Her youth passed, her grandeur faded, and the façade cracked. She struggled to survive by any means necessary, and, by the time we found her, she was an ugly, old whore. And, after three years on life support, she still is.

I am sure that everyone with an older home has daydreamed about beating the ever living shit out of one or more of the previous owners. At this point, I am so exasperated with my living room & non-fireplace that I’m ready to desecrate their graves.

As far as I can figure, around 1920 the living room was a rectangular room in the rear of the Queen. A brick fireplace was centered in the “front” wall. Then, towards the end of the decade, the POS knocked out the back wall and added the dinning room and kitchen additions to the Queen. They used the wallboards from the rear wall to build a closet and wood enclosure around the fireplace.

While I understand why they would want a closet, I can’t understand why they did such a piss poor job of building one. I can’t find one redeemable feature. The floor sucks, the walls suck, and the drop-ceiling sucks. It’s crooked, and I can see into the crawlspace. And, this is my short list.

I’m beginning to see why some people end up gutting houses in spite of their initial, good intentions. Every now and then, This Old House Magazine will run an article about project like this: An obscenely wealthy couple buys an old house because they “love its historic character and features,” and on the next page there is bulldozer dragging away two-thirds of the damn thing.

After tearing down layer upon layer of wood paneling, wallpaper, and dry wall, I’m now confronted with a corrupted, misbegotten skeleton of a house. The princess really is pauper putting on airs. I’m beginning to wonder how many historically significant features are left to be remodeled. It hate it, expectations are always undermined by reality.


Blogger amanda said...

After taking a day off of work to jack up our kitchen floor b/c of the previous owner's "choices" regarding new staircase installation, then wrestling with a huge beam and two huge supports, jackhammering two footers for the two huge supports, etc. etc. this weekend, I know exactly what you mean. And now we have to continue redoing the basement.

12:33 PM  
Blogger HomeImprovementNinja said...

I probably shouldn't mention this for fear of being lynched by the purists, but I'M one of those people who started out with good intentions of trying to save the original details and ended up becoming frustrated and just basically gutted almost everything and started from scratch.

How the previous owners survived 100 years with no insulation in the floors or walls is beyond me!

12:42 PM  
Blogger Patricia W said...

When I bought my house, I knew it needed trim downstairs, doors in almost every doorway and repairs to some of the plaster. When I got settled in I found that finding enough salvaged hardwood molding and trim for about 1200 sq ft of space is near impossible, finding antique solid oak doors that are the right height, width and style is also near impossible and under all of the paneling, the plaster has almost completely separated itself from the lathe making it an impossibility to reattach much less patch. So I've decided to have new interiors doors custom made, new baseboards and trim from new oak stock and this spring the walls come down at which time new grounded wiring will be installed along with insulation and new dry wall. It would have been nice if the plaster was perfect but because it isn't I now have the opportunity to have new wiring run.

3:09 PM  
Blogger JLynnette said...

I understand where you're coming from. I would love to step back in time and see just what this place looked like in it's infancy.

We're to the point that "saving" things is sliding further and further down the totem pole, and having a place that is comfortable and suits us is climbing higher and higher.

While I do love renovations and getting my hands dirty, I would also like to spend a little time enjoying the house for what it is and not what it should be.

Good luck!

5:44 PM  
Blogger amanda said...

Our trim is pre-blight chestnut. I could kill the PO for removing the trim in several of the rooms in the house because it's TOTALLY IRREPLACABLE. I have two rooms that I can never strip b/c we will never get the wood to match. This is my current excuse for not stripping anything inside the house yet.

6:19 AM  
Anonymous Brian said...

Wow, I said the exact same thing the other day. When we first looked at our home it seemed like all this wonderful detail had been covered up by scary 50's updates. After a month of demo it turned out there was actually not all that much detail left behind, it was destoryed/removed long before we arrived on the scene. About 25% of the detail I expected was still there. Such a shame. Hand cut locust beams, IN ONLY ONE SMALL ROOM. Were did the rest of it go? -removed and replaced with 2x4's several owners ago so that the ceiling could be raised about 1.5". ARRRGGGGG. If lead paint were considered a desirable historic detail i'd be the luckiest old home buyer in the world.

I think the main culprit is the fact that with such an old house the function of various rooms have changed many times. As a result, detials and original configurations were traded for functionality. i.e. The main bedroom (1st floor) became part of the living room (wall removed in the 20's). The 'keeping room' became the dining room in the early 1800's.

From a design prespective there are a lot of tough decisions in terms of favoring one period over another. If I favor the early victorian updates, then all of the colonial/shaker details get covered up ---terrible--- I have become the enemy, future owners will curse my name. If I do nothing it will all look like a disjointed hodgepodge of crap.

Apologies for the tangient, self-absorbiton and old home ownership go hand in hand.

Good Luck

King Street Farm

6:32 AM  

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