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, October 18, 2006

Delusions of Grandeur

We’ve been agonizing over what we plan to do with the Devil Queen’s main hall. It has beadboard wainscoting running down the full length of it. We’re going to lay brand new cherry flooring for its full length, and we keep thinking that we’d like to strip, stain, and shellac or varnish all of the wood work. However, the more we consider the particulars of this project, the more we keep thinking that painting the woodwork may be the best choice.

The wainscoting has had a rough life. The back three feet of the hall was partitioned off in the 1950’s or 1960’s to make a weird closet/mudroom (with the return air vent included). We tore this out. We ran out of salvaged beadboard for our repairs, so we had to use new beadboard. The front end of the hall was drenched over a period of 20-some-odd years since no one bothered to repair the hole in the roof. Most of the beadboard, part of the wall, mud sill, and floor joists were ruined. Once again, we had to use new beadboard to make repairs.

We had a professional painter Kenney recommended come out and give us his opinion on our wainscoting. His verdict was it was possible that we could stain the new wood to match the old if we were planning to use a dark stain. However, he said that no matter how close we got it that there would probably still be a slight difference in coloring. Also, the old wood has suffered from decades of abuse, and he wasn’t sure how good it would look after it was stripped and stained. In purely practical terms, he said that stripping it, priming it, and painting it would be a lot easier and cheaper that the staining approach. However, as dumb-asses who cut a house in half and moved it on a whim, “practical” isn’t always our first choice.

We’re considering doing a side by side test with stain on some old and new wainscoting and then deciding on our course of action.

My wife and I spent some time talking about this over a glass of wine, and it occurred to me that part of my indecision stems from the fact that there are two visions of the Devil Queen competing for space in my mind.

The first version bares little to no semblance to reality aside from the basic floor plan. The interior is filled with elaborate and expensive stain-grade detailing. The interior walls look like they are plaster (I have no idea why), there are fireplaces, tin ceilings, and lots of crown molding. I think this version of the Queen formed itself in those first days so long ago when we had more time to daydream about her.

The second version of the Queen was formed by the grim reality of things once we’d dug into our work. This Devil Queen is still grand in her own way. Once we restore all of the original gingerbread trim to its original glory, she will be an undeniably beautiful Queen Anne Victorian. However, particularly once you’ve had a full interior tour, you will see that she is more of a cottage or solidly middle class house than a mansion. Sure, compared to today’s paltry building standards, she is a grand old dame, but, in her own time, she was a more modest affair.

Somewhere during the conversation, I had an epiphany. The truth is that while the Queen is a wonderful house that was worth saving, she isn’t our dream house. She possesses a number of features that you’d find in our dream home, but she is not it. I think my wife had already come to this conclusion some time ago, but hadn’t quite made the connection yet.

So, what does all this mean? It probably means that the hall’s wainscoting and some of the other wood work will be painted and not stained. It means that this house, for all of our time and trouble will not be our last house by any stretch. And, it means I will quit trying to stuff her old frame into the stiff corset of High Victorian style and let her be what she originally was in all her glory.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Maryam in Marrakech said...

John, she may not be your dream house but she sounds very beautiful nonetheless. And that cherry flooring, in particular, sounds divine.

6:36 AM  
Blogger John said...

Thanks! We are very excited about the cherry wood. Now, if we could just finish the bloody hall so we could install it...

12:36 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

Hmm, that's a tough realization. I hope you at least enjoy the Queen thoroughly before you move on. :)

2:34 PM  
Blogger John said...

Kristin,

Really it wasn't too bad of a realization. I'm hoping it will make things easier. If I stop screwing around with stuff that won't work anyhow, it might go a little faster.

I'm sure we'll have plenty of time to enjoy her - if we ever finish.

6:15 AM  
Anonymous wretched homeowner said...

We also realized that our victorian rowhome is not our dream home, and is not worth pouring our life savings into (although we will restore the home to a close semblance of its former beauty). We’ve realized the neighborhood is not where we want to raise kids. Most of the original plaster was long ago replaced with drywall. The original woodwork is lovely, but was largely removed from the second floor with the exception of one mantelpiece. And the house will simply be too small in 4 or 5 years. Now the trick is to control my OCD, finish this restoration, and enjoy my home for what it is.

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