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, September 29, 2006

Saving Places, Inc.?

Since we are certifiable crackheads and clearly don’t have enough to do with our time, I’ll just go ahead and throw this one out there; we’ve been thinking about starting a non-profit. Not now, but sometime in the near future.

This idea has been with us awhile, and, so far, we’ve succeeded in keeping ourselves out of this mess. However, last weekend my wife read this post of over at 1902 Victorian.

Scarlet: “They condemned this house? It doesn’t look any worse than ours did.”

Me: “Are you sure? There are plants growing inside.”

Scarlet: “Hmm. That doesn’t look too bad. Ours had trees growing on the roof. I mean, it’s not like they have to move it.”

Me: “The bathroom sub-floor is completely rotten.”

Scarlet: “The one with all the tiles? Those are so pretty. Repairing the sub-floor wouldn’t be that hard, we’ve done stuff like that before.”

Me: “Well, yeah. That is true.”

Scarlet: “Does she want to buy it? Maybe we could give them some money for it?”

Now, I’m not adverse to helping people, but I have no idea where we’d get the money for another house considering how much we need for the Queen and a new car.

Scarlet: “We should start Saving Places (our name for our imaginary non-profit). You should post about it and see what all the Housebloggers think about it.”

So, here it is.

My wife and I had this idea several years ago when we were first starting this project. The problem we had was everyone hates old houses, particularly banks and insurance companies.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that banks and insurance companies are one of the major reasons why more people do not undertake the kinds of projects Housebloggers seems to. We seem to represent the lunatic fringe that is okay with doing things the Hard Way.

As far as I can tell as homeowner and former real estate appraiser:

1) If loans were ice cream, the bank wants vanilla every time. There are no exceptions to this, this is their favorite flavor. If you tell a bank you want to move an old home and renovate it, they’ll tell you no way in hell. However, if you asked for the exact same amount of money to build a small development of ranch houses or French Provincials, they’d ask when you could start.
2) Bankers, on the whole, have no imagination. They don’t or can’t see the finished project. They will only loan on what they can see, not what you can imagine.
3) Banks & insurance companies are risk adverse. This is why they really don’t want to loan money or insure and old home.

Now, I don’t mean to pick on them too much. Banks are there to make money, and they will tell you this on the front end. Insurance companies are a bit harder to pin down, but, if they will insure you they actual will provide a service (in theory).

If the banks won’t help you, who do you turn to for assistance? In our case, there were two choices: Main Street Russellville and the Nation Register of Historic Places.

Main Street Russellville has done an excellent job in reviving Historic Downtown Russellville. They still have a long way to go, but they have been making steady progress over the last ten years or so. However, since the Devil Queen wasn’t in the historic Main Street District (she was one block outside the boundary), nor is it now, there isn’t anything that they could do for us.

We tried to get the Devil Queen on the National Registry of Historic Places. We hoped that if we pulled this off we could qualify for some grant money to help restore the Queen’s gingerbread & period details. That didn’t work either. Our application was turned down at the state level. Basically, they weren’t interested since the Devil Queen had been moved from her original location and because it was only local significance.

So, who do you have to turn to at that point? Around here there is no one, nothing.

Saving Place would hopefully fill that vast chasm between a hard to obtain bank loans and the scant public and private resources available for old homes. Ideally, Saving Places would offer grants or loans for historic homes or buy & restore old homes itself to resale.

Of course, I don’t have any idea how to set up something like this, but that has never stopped us before. So, what do you think?


Anonymous nadja and sean said...

I think the idea has potential...
Here are a few things I would want to research to start a project like this:
1) What kinds of funders are out there that are interested in historic preservation (I think there would be some...not of the kind that only exists on registries, but of history and preservation in general). Another angle that you could take on this is the reduce/ reuse/ renovate angle, since a lot of funders are jumping on the reducing waste bandwagon/ green earth.

2) Would the nonprofit be mostly a coordinator/distributor of financial assistance, or would there be other angles (legal and legislative advocacy, real "person" assistance, training, resources, etc)...

3) Would this be a national nonprofit, or something you would like to enact more locally?
It seems that the degree of assistance/ support you get for old home renovation varies a LOT depending on location. In St. Paul, MN, for instance, we had a lot of resources available to us, and many of the neighborhoods here have grants for home restoration. But, preservation is a value of the city... and that's not so in other places. Although I think the climate may be changing...

(I have a background in nonprofit administration, and I would love to talk more about this there's any way I can help!)
:) nadja

1:10 PM  
Anonymous nadja and sean said...

I just re-read my comment, and it is quite possibly the least comprehensive thing I have written! Hope it makes sense... sorry... it's friday.

1:24 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I think it's a great idea! How cool. I have wondered why no one had come up with such an idea before... now I know why. :)

2:07 PM  
Anonymous Maryam in Marrakech said...

What a sweet idea. I worked for a nonprofit for 12 years and have written a lot of proposals for grant funds. If it comes to that stage, maybe I could help out?

We would also be willing to make a small contribution. Can't give much since we are $150,000 short for our own project on top of our mortgage. But I also know that there are plenty who have a lot less than we do.

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Julie said...

You may consider getting funding through HGTV's Restore America,,HGTV_22056_36517,00.html

They also want to put your house on a show... see below.

P.S. I love the name you suggested!

Do you have a heart-stopping, eye-popping renovation?

Are you passionate about turning old spaces into new, hip ones? We want to talk with you.

Home & Garden Television is looking for DRAMATIC home renovations to feature in a new series called Generation Renovation. To be considered, please make sure your renovation MEETS the following criteria:

Renovations must be COMPLETE.

Renovations must be extensive and dramatic (more than a kitchen and bathroom).

Homeowners must be passionate and enthusiastic (the more "hands-on" the better).

Must have "before" photos or home video to show what your home looked like before renovation.
Generation Renovation is an original HGTV series that captures the spirit of renovation. Filmed in over 16 cities nationwide, this series spotlights home enthusiasts who've already turned their homes, lofts and condos into one-of-a-kind living spaces. We want to RELIVE the renovation experience with you all over again!

Please e-mail or call 303-712-3319.

(PLEASE REMEMBER: To be considered, renovations must be complete.)

3:33 AM  
Anonymous ray said...

i'm in. (and local)
there are several places that are still in the path of certain ridiculously large churches

7:39 PM  

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