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, February 28, 2007

The Strange Tale of the Triple Sash Window

I'll start with my disclaimer. Some of the following is what I've read into the facts as I know them. I can't help but make a story out of this.

In a previous post, Brenda of Flatbush commented on the peculiarity of our triple-sash window. Mainly, she'd never seen one before, and, until we made the Devil Queen's acquaintance, neither had we. The other old homes in the area certainly don't have windows like this one.

Including the trim, the window is roughly three feet wide and ten feet tall. To accommodate the third set of weights, the trim is built out into the room. The pockets are eight to ten inches deep total. If you open the bottom two sashes up, the opening is tall enough for someone like me to walk out onto the front porch.

So, why did they build this particular style of window? My wife and I are not sure, but, as you might imagine, we have a theory.

The Devil Queen's original owner and builder, Van Boswell, married Amelia, a girl from New Orleans, Louisiana. Her father was from Georgia and her mother was daughter of two French émigrés. Somehow, they all came to live in Russellville, Arkansas, after the Civil War, and it was there that she met Van.

I don't know how much of her life Amelia lived in New Orleans, but it seems that she was old enough to remember the long, floor to ceiling French windows that grace the city. Perhaps there was some warm, happy memory tied to them which she carried with her years after she'd come north to Russellville, more a glorified frontier town than a proper city.

Van and Amelia had been married for several years before the Devil Queen was built. First they lived with her parents, and then in a home of their own on Commerce Street. Van was a blacksmith, carpenter, and contractor, but, judging from the remaining homes from that time, windows of this sort were unheard of there. This window was something special for his wife, as was the house. As Scarlet says, the Devil Queen is a lady's house if nothing else.

Sadly enough, several years after the Devil Queen was completed, Amelia died. She was in her early thirties.

* * *

Most windows of this type operate more like doors, two huge sashes full of glass panes which swing inward on hinges. A Google search turned this one up on eBay.

[Outside frame. 51" WIDE X 3" THICK X 94 1/2" HIGH]

On the outside, shutters are typically hung. The shutter hinges are still mounted on our window's exterior trim, but the shutters have been gone for at least 40 years.

My wife and I always wondered why our triple-sash window didn’t look more like the one above. Maybe Van Boswell wasn't entirely clear on what his wife wanted? Maybe this was his approximation of it based on the styles he was familiar with? Then, while searching for images for this post, I found this picture.

A floor to ceiling, triple-sash window in New Orleans. The Devil Queen's window is exactly how it was meant to be.

After years of looking, why didn't I find this before? I just don't know. So, thank you for the comment Brenda. You inadvertently led me down the road to solving a long standing riddle. It leaves me with a small sense of satisfaction which has been hard to find.

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Blogger Poppy said...

That is one cool window! I've never seen one like it. Do you think you'll eventually try to duplicate the look?

10:14 AM  
Anonymous Julia said...

Nifty window, quite interesting I must say.

But how about the theory that someone had the need to allow a person in and out of the house but not through the door? You could imagine all sorts of dastardly goings on with such a theory. I'm really trying not to be too creative but it was the first thought to my mind!

11:28 AM  
Anonymous kingstreetfarm said...

Dude! That's not only a very cool window, but what a fascinating backstory you have uncovered! That's the sort of thing that really makes old houses come alive, in my opinion.

Love that wrought iron grating on the New Orleans house, by the way. Is that something you might do in the future? Assuming, of course, that your future remains with the Queen.

1:40 PM  
Anonymous Brenda from Flatbush said...

A Big Easy connection, fascinating theory! Sad to say, my first thought here in Brooklyn was how you'd patch all three sashes into our perimeter alarm system...(probably, with a combination of circuit-breaking magnets and glassbreak detectors, sigh...)

2:29 PM  
Blogger John said...

Poppy, I'm really not sure. We haven't made that far in our planning. At this point, we're pretty much stuck on getting a coat of paint on everything and refinishing the floors before May. Anything beyond that is icing.

Julia, I've wondered that too. I know if we lived here long enough that I'd probably have to do something with it to keep my son from sneaking out in the middle of the night.

Kingstreetfarm, I love houses' back stories too. They definately add color to the house. As for the window, I'm not sure. We probably won't have time to think about it until this summer.

Brenda, interesting thought. I'd definately be interested in getting a lot of iron grating on the window if I were in Brooklyn. I don't know what this says about me, but I tend to think of houses in terms of line-of-fire and escape routes. It must be the influence of a past life at work.

9:54 AM  
Anonymous CatM said...

FYI, Thomas Jefferson used triple-hung windows when he built Monticello. He brought the idea back from France. The tour guides at Monticello highlight the windows and praise their versatility for handling ventilation in various conditions.

I believe Jefferson used the windows in his tea room (if not elsewhere in the house, also). He also used triple-hung windows in the University of Virginia.

10:38 AM  
Blogger John said...

Thomas Jefferson? Sweet. Thanks for passing on that little bit, I had no idea.

10:51 AM  
Anonymous Amanda said...

Bless you! I've been trying to find a picute of a to the floor window such as the one you found on e-bay. That's exacty what I want for the dining room. Not that your three sash window isn't lovely :) Who cares if these doesn't quite fit the styles of our old houses. We have to live in them!

11:49 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

My first thought was that it was a door at some point but after seeing the photos you posted it looks completely natural now.

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