In wintertime, Smith Larsen, her brother and father slept in sleeping bags near the wood-burning stove in the kitchen, called the "hot room." It was the only room with chinking between the logs. Smith made the kitchen table from a giant tree stump, smaller stumps serving as chairs.
"This was so much fun as a kid," Smith Larsen said.
Smith Larsen said she and her brother were always dirty. Most of their classmates' parents wouldn't let their kids play at the mansion. It was too dangerous, something Smith Larsen, now a parent, understands.
"It was just a different kind of lifestyle," she said.
Smith Larsen remembered her father as a master cook and a man who taught his children integrity and perseverance. He was strict and expected good grades, she said.
Even back then tourists would ogle the house from the highway. What they didn't know was Smith Larsen and her brother were watching them right back, through binoculars.
Her father may have been reclusive, Smith Larsen said, but he always welcomed strangers. If someone bothered to drive up to his front door, Smith would let him in and tell the story of his life's work.
"If you came, you'd get a show," Smith Larsen said.
In April 1992, while working on the second story roof, Smith fell from the house and died at age 48.
Smith Larsen grew up, got married. In 2005 her brother died in a tubing accident on the river. She thought of their childhood days spent at the mansion and felt reinvigorated to do something.
Two years ago Smith Larsen organized a cleanup, and volunteers cleared out trash. Earlier this summer, Smith Larsen hosted a fundraising party and collected $8,000. She didn't even plan her own wedding, but it took her a whole year and a half to prepare for the benefit.
Smith Larsen envisions her Smith Mansion Preservation Project becoming a nonprofit someday. She'd like to finish the second and third floors, if possible. Smith Larsen said it could take years and hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Some have asked her why they should help; it's a private home. Smith Larsen sees the house as an architectural work worth saving. She wants to open it to the public when the structure is safe.
"It's a beautiful piece of art, in my mind," Smith Larsen said. "I'll be working on it every chance I get."
When the general public can finally visit, Smith Larsen will be able to put rumors to rest for good. She'll be able to tell them who her father was to her: a man dedicated to the two things most important in his life, his children and his house.
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