by Rob Keys
Posted 11/12/2012 12:00 am
Updated 6 months ago
Steve and Lata Lovell poured seven years and about $10 million into restoring the Queen Anne Mansion, a museum-like model of 19th-century opulence.
Now the Lovells are looking for partners to help them take the Queen Anne into the next century.
“A hundred years from now,” Lata Lovell said, “we want this property to still be here.”
Through the formation of the Queen Anne Mansion Preservation Trust — and a sales push launched in early October — the property is being marketed as a private residence club. It sits mere steps away from the entrance to Eureka Springs’ historic downtown district, and the Lovells’ idea is to find like-minded people looking for a second home or regular retreat.
The aim of the trust is eventually to consist of 84 equal ownership interests. The first 12 currently are available for $150,000 each.
Once 24 interests are sold, owners will have the right to reserve a minimum of 28 nights of annual use in seven-night blocks. Additional nights will be allowed on a space-available basis.
The trust will be managed by an elected board of directors and run by professional management that reports to the board. The Lovells, who will own a single interest, believe the business model could become a template for preserving historic properties all over the nation.
More than that, though, they hope the model will preserve the storied estate they purchased in 2005.
“I just loved the property,” Steve Lovell said. “It was a heart thing. It wasn’t a business thing.”
The Queen Anne originally was constructed in Carthage, Mo., in 1891. It was built by a decorated Civil War veteran and industrialist, Curtis Wright, who owned a furniture factory in Indiana. Reports indicate Wright used the promise of the Queen Anne to help convince his wife to make the move to Carthage, where he eventually became owner of a mine that supplied limestone blocks for buildings and homes throughout the state. Reports also indicate the 21-room mansion was built at a cost of $22,000, and became the center of then-booming Carthage’s social scene. “Buffalo Bill” Cody and author Harold Bell Wright were among numerous famous guests said to have stayed at the Queen Anne.
By the 1980s, however, the property had fallen into disrepair and been put up for sale. Eureka Springs businessman Ron Evans later bought the mansion, which was disassembled, numbered piece by piece and transported in 40 semi-truckloads to its current location.
By the time the Lovells took ownership, the amount of restoration needed was almost overwhelming. A decision was made to strip the Queen Anne to its raw wood and put in all new mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.
“We quickly realized there were two ways to go about it,” Steve Lovell said. “We could do it quick, fast and cheap or do it properly. We chose to do it properly every step of the way.”
That much is evident with practically every step one takes inside the property. The hand-tooled woodwork and finishing throughout the seven suites and parlor areas is stunning, as are the furnishings and decorative pieces from the likes of George Henkels, Mitchell & Rammelsberg, Dresden and Waterford.
“I can say without worry or boasting this is the best quality restoration not just in Eureka Springs, but in this area,” Lovell said.
‘Labor of Love’
The 12,000-SF Queen Anne, in fact, opened as a museum and tour home in 2010 and operated that way for two tourist seasons, attracting more than 15,000 visitors. By August 2011, however, the Lovells realized such a model wasn’t feasible given the expense of maintaining such a property.
That’s when they traveled to Miami to learn more about fractional developments, which are different from timeshares in that purchasers of fractional developments gain an actual piece of the real estate rather than the right to simply use the property. In Miami, the Lovells met David Disick, the man generally credited with coining the term “private residence club.”
Disick said the idea of a private residence club is similar to that of a country club.
“It’s all about luxury and the experience,” said Disick, who also said annual sales in the luxury fractional segment grew from about $70 million in the mid-1990s to more than $2 billion by 2007.
The Queen Anne promises partners five-star accommodations and amenities. While the architecture and decor reflect a bygone time, there are modern luxuries like flat-screen TVs, chef and spa services, a media room and courtyard bar.
Services will be provided by a professional staff, including an onsite manager, who will reside in the bottom half of the adjacent Kelley House.
“It will be like having a fully staffed second home,” Lata Lovell said.
Disick visited the Queen Anne after meeting the Lovells and said it was a one-of-a-kind property.
“When I first walked in,” he said, “I had one word and that word was ‘Wow.’”
Disick also said the growth of northwest Arkansas, including the opening of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, made the Queen Anne an appealing option for those interested in fractional ownership.
“It’s an area that’s coming of age, and that’s what makes Eureka Springs an exciting venue for a project like this,” Disick said.
Perhaps more than that, though, Disick said, those who purchase partnerships will benefit from the Lovells’ investments of time and money.
“The Queen Anne has been a labor of love for the Lovells, and you’re going to feel that as you go through it,” he said.