Welcome to the club Tour home returns to private residence

Thursday, November 22, 2012
Members of the club can choose from seven Victorian suites in the mansion, each with a different decor. Unlike a time share, members can stay in a different suite each time, or reserve one or more using their allotted number of nights.

Built in 1891, the mansion served for decades as a family home, the site of myriad Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas celebrations and birthday parties. Then its walls witnessed weddings as the children -- four boys, four girls -- grew up and left home. Almost a century later, it too left home, moving 85 miles from Carthage, Mo., to Eureka Springs, where it started a new life as a tour home.

Now, the 12,000 square-foot Queen Anne Mansion will be a residence again, but to more than one family. And they won't have to share a bathroom.

"It started out with five bathrooms," Lata Lovell said. "Now it has 12."

Lovell and spouse Steve Lovell bought the mansion in 2005, spent five years doing an extensive restoration, then ran it as a tour home for a year and a half. After making discreet changes, they are offering shares in a trust that will own the mansion and run it as a private residence club.

The details: Membership is limited to 84, with an initial share for $150,000, with the goal of sharing both the joy -- and the expense -- of maintaining the historic mansion.

"What it's really about is preserving and keeping something for hundreds of years," Lovell said.

In October, the Lovells spoke at the National Trust for Historic Preservation's convention in Spokane on the concept of turning an historic home into a private club. It's something they were told has never been done before, Lovell said. Members can use the club during the day and book a suite up to 28 nights a year. Residency comes with a full breakfast, a Friday night cocktail party and Sunday dinner. Other meals and services, including the salon/spa in the adjacent Kelley House, are available. Plans call for a salt-water swimming pool to be installed on the two-acre grounds, which contains a walled courtyard garden.

"It's all about the experience," Lata Lovell said.

On the main floor are a ladies' parlor, a gentleman's parlor, a music room and a dining room. A grand staircase rises two floors to an atrium, bordered with a frieze of four seasons in the Ozarks. All the woodwork, the paneled ceilings, the carved oak frontispiece and the stained-glass windows are original to the house. The furniture is by Meeks and other master craftsmen of the era. The maker of the federal dining room set also made one for the White House. Matching curio cabinets in one suite were made in Paris.

"People who love art, architecture, history and Eureka Springs will want to be here," Lovell said.

The Lovells, who have never lived in the house, will retain a membership. Others will be offered to people in two dozen contingencies identified by David Harries, who is in charge of marketing. Interested parties will put down $2,000, he said, and when 24 are ready to convert to full membership, the mansion will open. Monthly fees will be less than $700 a month and used for operating costs and ongoing maintenance. A manager will live on site in the Kelley House, and a concierge will be on duty in the house from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. While it will no longer be a tourist attraction, the Lovells see the mansion serving as a economic engine for the community, with members eating, shopping and attending concerts in town.

"What we envision is the concierge setting up private showings, concerts and walking tours of the galleries," she said. "We will also consider public events. The mansion is part of the social fabric of town. It's living and breathing."

The mansion was built in Carthage, Mo., by Curtis Wright, a distant relative of Orville and Wilbur Wright and cousin of author Harold Bell Wright. Iron ore, zinc and limestone embedded in the upper gable attest to the source of his fortune. At the time it was built, the mansion had only one bathroom for the family of eight. Its transformation from a tour home back into a residence is a return to its original function, Harries said.

"You could admire the rooms but the house didn't get to be enjoyed," he said of its tour home days. "If the house were a person, it would want to serve the purpose it was built for. When you get three or four couples here, the place is going to sing."

For more information, go to www.thequeenannemansion.com, or call 1-800-MANSION.

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