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!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Ranch Houses, Why Do You Love Them So?

No, really. I want to know.

I’m not trying to be mean or snarky. This should be considered a fact finding mission not an attack on a house style some people obviously like or even love. To be honest, I am baffled.

First, I lived in a ranch house for 14 or 15 years with my mom while growing up. The quality of construction is better than a lot of the McMansions they are throwing up now, but it doesn’t transcend average quality. It has 8 foot ceilings, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, a den, and kitchen with a dining area. There is a fireplace, central heat & air, carpet & vinyl floors (were, my mom has been pulling them out and replacing them with laminate), a two car garage, and a deck with a view. The second ranch house I lived in was Mr. Blue. My wife and I lived there for about five years. It was even less glamourous (even after a complete make-over)

After 20 years of first hand experience with ranch houses, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t like them. The ceilings are too low, there is little to no air flow, and their personality is tragically vanilla. I like high ceilings, classical proportions, extensive wood work, and high quality construction that older homes offer.

I know tastes change. One hundred years ago, people revolted against the tyranny of Victorian homes. They hated the tacky gingerbread, the cavernous rooms, and frivolous decoration. They wanted clean lines and functional spaces. I suspect that they never imagined that one day these homes would coveted as architectural treasures; time changes things.

Please tell me, a child of late 20th century suburbia, what charm these ranch homes have; I’ve lived with them for so long that I can’t see it for myself.


Blogger amanda said...

They're kind of comfortable to me. My grandparents had one, and I always liked going over there. My dad's girlfriend has a ranch in Canada, and I really observed how liveable the house was when I visited in July. Everything is on one floor, no stairs for your lazy American (or Canadian) ass to climb, there is a big central room with a fireplace to hang out and watch TV, they're connected to the outside with a big patio (in my dad's gf's house, there is a big pool, too). The garage is attached to the house, no dragging the groceries in from your off street parking down the alley and up 2 flights of stairs into the house (that part is just me, though). The house is well insulated, the low ceilings keep the rooms warmer, as do the tiny windows. So, there are some perks. I don't like the low ceilings and small windows enough to trade in the five gorgeous 84" tall windows in my bedroom, but ask me that when it gets down to 8 degrees in January and I'm shivering under the down comforter in sweatpants and a sweatshirt, and I'm trying to convince my schnauzer to hide under the covers with me to warm me up! Basically, some people value function over form, and some people value form over function. The former love ranches. The latter love Victorians. I can see the appeal of both, but I'm not rushing out to buy a ranch, either. Just my perspective!

11:41 AM  
Blogger Allison said...

I'm not crazy about ranches either. I lived in a ranch for a while when I was a kid (in Arkansas!!), but always wanted a 2-story. To me, they don't feel private. With everything on one floor, you always seem so close to everyone else in the house. I like the encapsulation of older homes - every activity has it's own room, separated from all the other rooms. For the same reason, I don't like the "great-room" model that many houses are being built on - with combined kitchen/dining/living room.

1:16 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Windows on the ground floor makes it easier for teenagers to sneak out at night.

And there's a lot to be said for function. To me, a home needs to have both form and function, and sometimes it's easier to add aesthetics to a boring ranch (Prairie style aesthetics work well) than it is to make an old Victorian work.

2:18 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

I grew up in an early 60s Ranch home. I blogged about it a few weeks ago. I have very fond memories of that house. Not all Ranch homes are the same. Some do have their own character and charm to them. Ours had wood floors and some built-ins. There was a cool pantry in the eat-in kitchen and a formal dining room. It seems to me that the Ranch style took a turn for the worse in the 70s and 80s. Ranch homes of the 50s and 60s have something to be said for them.

2:44 PM  
Anonymous Christi Richardson said...

My father was an engineer, and while we never went hungry, there was never any money for extras. We lived in a lot of older houses, and the older ones were always my favorite. Victorian/edwardian, you name it, they are more esthetically pleasing than a box any day of the week. Oh, and I love twelve foot ceilings, too.

6:00 PM  
Blogger jm@houseinprogress said...

I heard somewhere (anyone else remember this?) that we tend to be attracted to the style of home that would be from our grandparent's era instead of our parent's era. Don't know how true this is.

I've always loved architecture from 1900-1920...whether they are bungalows, brownstones, four squares, whichever. However, I also have a soft spot for a well built, well decorated ranch. I've seen tract homes in the ranch-style and I've seen ranch homes with lovely geometric windows, some with vaulted ceilings in the living rooms, a Danish modern sort of look with lots of natural wood and light and form.

If you search for Cliff May, Eichler and Eames, you should find interesting examples of ranch style homes.

Just like bungalows, many developers took that "pure" style and sought to replicate it in mass quantities for low costs. This led to short cuts in some ranch style homes that compromised a lot of the details that made them so aesthetically pleasing. Some developers stayed closer to the true form and those houses are little gems.

Here is an example of a beautifully constructed ranch.

7:14 PM  
Blogger Jocelyn said...

People put some great comments here. I have not really been a fan of ranches but more recently have come to appreciate well-designed ones. I agree they have a comfortable feeling and they are great for anyone who wants to live on one level for example.

The current trend of bringing the outdoors in works well with ranches too. That said, it would not be my first choice of a home. I grew up in a 2-flat and here I am in another 2-flat. They feel like home to me. Although I truly admire many styles of homes- Georgian, Craftsman, Four Square, Victorian etc...

6:33 PM  
Blogger Derek C said...

My grandfather has a ranch, and my first house was a really tiny ranch. Now that I am in the middle of an extensive restoration of an antique bungalow and am finding myself searching for the "perfect" everything, and have taken my time because I didn't want to "Home Depot" the place, I think sometimes "wow, it would be easy to be living in a forty year old ranch because I'd have no qualms throwing up the vinyl siding and replacement windows and I'd just order up a new kitchen floor every 10 years and stuff like that. I wouldn't be spending countless hoursw tih a dental file on a fireplace mantel. Yes, when I think of ranch living I think of maintenance free (well almost) living where you could just go buy paint, or tile, or whatever, no agonizing in period catalogs etc. Sorryu for the long comment. Paint stripper fumes are getting to me.

7:22 PM  
Anonymous Isabelle said...

The first house I ever lived in was a small ranch in a Canadian 'burb. To this day, I still remember the day we moved into our next house, a 3 floor redbrick victorian in a historical neighborhood on Montreal's South Shore. Discovering all its nooks and cranies, great hiding spots, running up and down the front and back stairs, and stayinga away from the scary basement. To me, that's the magical house of my youth - a house with a real personality. My parents have since moved into another ranch (anticipate needing the 1 floor living). The big open space the outside-in potential, the clean aesthetic do appeal to me, but I don't think it will ever have the magical feel of their other house. Restful, tranquil, open, but not magical... Depends what one is looking for I guess.

6:01 AM  
Blogger John said...

Wow. Thanks for all the great comments! A special thanks to Greg. I read your post and it got me thinking, hense this post.

8:18 AM  
Anonymous Kelly said...

To me, the bungalow-style (like I have now) is a wonderful composite of the form -- 10' ceilings, stained chestnut woodwork, etc -- and function -- simple floorplan, 1 floor living (+ converted attic). Sure I would like to have better insulation and central air like a house built today, but I don't think I would trade in the solid construction and charm of 1915.

BTW, I actually grew up in an early "McMansion" circa 1989 (erk). Decent construction for the time, but who needs 6 bathrooms??

7:51 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

We had a 1967 ranch before this one, and it had it's charm - bathrooms tiled in mint green and pastel blue, lovely hardwood floors under the carpet. Something about wood floors makes any place feel a little magical, I think. :)

2:36 PM  

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