Spite Houses

Let’s talk about spite houses today!

If you dont’ know what a spite house is . . . well, it’s pretty much exactly what the name says. It’s a house you build out of spite: oddly-shaped, sometimes very ugly or in an inconvenient place, designed with the specific intention of pissing off a neighbor, the city planners, whomever.

While spite houses are definitely not exclusive to the 19th century, there was a particular boom of them in the Victorian era. I’m not entirely sure why. Please see some examples below (many found on apartment therapy’s site here):

1.) The Hollensbury House, Alexandria VA (1830)
This house measures 7 feet by 25 feet. It was designed to piss of the people who kept loitering in the alley that used to be where this house now stands. The owner of one of the adjacent houses, John Hollensbury, got tired of them thar youths causing a late-night ruckus in the alleyway, so he decided to build this obnoxiously small house there and rent it out.

2.) The Freeport Spite House, Freeport NY (19th century)

The city of Freeport decided to build their city on a grid. A single developer, John Randall disagreed with this idea. I guess he didn’t want buildings and streets to be easy to navigate or locate. He probably hated symmetry, order, common sense, puppies, rainbows, and friendship.
In retaliation for the city’s LOGICAL IDEA, he bought a triangular piece of land and built this house on it. This caused the city to have to divert their road and make a squiggily mess on an otherwise lovely grid.

3.) The Skinny House, Boston MA (1860s).
A father died and left this plot of land to his two sons. While one of the brothers was away, fighting in the American Civil War, the other brother built an enormous house on most of the land. But I guess the best way to fight douchey moves is with douchey moves–rather than just resign that his brother had outsmarted him and found a way to pretty much claim the whole property as his, the second brother built this teeeeeeny tiiiny house as snugly as possible against his brothers, and specifically did it in a way that blocked as much light and ventilation in his brother’s house as possible.

What a terrible war the Civil War was. Brother against brother.

4.) The Alameda Spite House, Alameda CA (early 10th century)
There are two versions in this story. One is that this plot of land was inherited by a man named Charles Froling, but the city claimed a chunk of it in order to built the road. He was intending to build a large home on the property, but obviously couldn’t. There was nothing Froling could do about it, so he just built this house anyway, out of protest.

The second urban legend says that this house resulted as a feud between neighbors, and was built to block all the sunlight in the house behind it.

5.)  The Old Spite House, Marblehead MA (1716).
There are two versions of this story as well (also about dick-head brothers). One is that this house was occupied by two brothers who abhorred each other and wouldn’t speak to each other. Both were too proud to move out or sell their share to the other. They lived in different areas of the house and eventually built that weird addition to keep from having ot see each other.

Guys, this is how The War of the Roses (the film, not the actual war) started. Please tell me this feud ended with one of them dropping a chandelier on the other.

The second version of the story was that a younger son was outraged at being left such a tiny share of his father’s estate, so he built this ugly old thing to spoil the views from his elder brothers’ windows.

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