Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine, Online

A Handcrafted Home with Secrets and Memories

A Handcrafted Home with Secrets and Memories

A handcrafted home whose secrets and memories

continue to delight the daughter who loves it

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Ed Williams worked in construction all his life, but he did more than build houses, he built a legacy for his family. In 1978, he awoke from a night filled with dreams and told his family he was building a log cabin. However, he said the largest portion of it would be hidden underground.

Sitting on 77 acres in Hackett, Ark., is Williams’ dream come to life. It took him two years and the help of a good friend to finish his project. The building is made of solid pine and stone, all designed and selected with care and vision.

The “underground” home has an elevator operated by a hoist, two fireplaces, a rock- embedded ceiling and a secret passageway behind a mirror. The magical dwelling served as a second home for the family for many years. Williams sometimes called it his “dog house,” where he would spend time rebuilding his classic car collection.

“Growing up, I never really had an interest in the farm,” she said. “It just looked like a bunch of work. Mom and Dad would come on Sundays and she’d look out from the sun room and dad would mow. He was really proud of this place. I am so glad we had time here again before he passed this year.”

Four years ago, his daughter Kristin Armstrong began what he teasingly called “a hostile takeover,” moving in and renovating portions of the building to suit her love of antiques and the outdoors.

Armstrong now lives in the unique treasure he left behind and lovingly shares the memories of her father’s grand design. She calls it heaven on earth and says she is living the dream – thanks to her daddy.

“When I moved in, I found a calendar that was hung in 1980, the year he had finished the construction,” Armstrong said. “I had written on it, ‘I love this place.’ He never turned the calendar page or took it down. I have since written, ‘I still love this place,’ and have left it hanging up.”

The home is brimming with more such stories and important family relics. A front bedroom is dedicated entirely to family keepsakes. The wallpaper that hangs in it was put in place by her grandmother and Armstrong has vowed to never take it down.


There are pieces of furniture that came to the United States on a boat from Sweden, the bed her father was born in, dishes and dolls that belonged to her grandmothers on both sides and even her daddy’s first milking stool. Everywhere you turn are objects that Armstrong knows the history of by heart, down to how each chip was made in every dish. She is a collector of antiques and of memories.

An artistic eye and love of collecting runs in the family. Throughout the underground portion of the house, sparkling rocks are inlaid in the ceiling. Many are bricks and colored stones Armstrong’s grandmother had collected over the years during trips to New Mexico.

“Many of Grandmother’s rocks – I am named after her, by the way – are in the garden that Daddy started and that I work in any chance I get. He worked all the time and didn’t get to do as much with the garden as he had wanted with it.” With a smile, she added she would soon need to bring in the okra crop that had been producing well this year.

One underground bedroom contains antique toys. Some belonged to her or her son and now the grandkids get to enjoy the very same childhood treasures when they come to visit. It is in this room that a large mirror gives way to one of the home’s distinctive features, a secret passageway.

With a gentle nudge in the right spot, it swings inward to a dead airspace hallway that runs the length of the home. The space was built to one day house a solar power unit, but for now it is used for storage and as a fun conversation piece.

Visitors also will find unusual touches such as cedar-lined closets, a bidet commode and a larger sunken tub.

“Everyone who comes for a visit seems to enjoy this place and I know that makes my dad happy,” Armstrong said.

She has hopes that someday perhaps one of her children will pick up where she leaves off and maybe in some small way she, too, can contribute to them living the dream and enjoying the family legacy.


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