A spite house is a building constructed or modified to irritate neighbors or any party with land stakes. Spite houses may create obstructions, such as blocking out light or blocking access to neighboring buildings or can be just symbols of defiance. Because long-term occupation is at best a secondary consideration, spite houses frequently sport strange and impractical structures.
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In 1806, Thomas McCobb, heir to his father’s land and shipbuilding business, returned home to Phippsburg, Maine, from sea to discover that his stepbrother Mark had inherited the family “Mansion in the Wilderness”. Upset about his loss, McCobb built a house directly across from the McCobb mansion to spite his stepbrother.
In 1814, Dr. John Tyler owned a parcel of land near the courthouse square in Frederick, Maryland. The city made plans to extend Record Street south through Tyler’s land to meet West Patrick Street. In fighting the city, Tyler discovered a local law that prevented the building of a road if work was in progress on a substantial building in the path of a proposed road. To spite the city, Tyler immediately had workmen pour a building foundation, which was discovered by the road crews the next morning.
By Thisisbossi (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In the 19th century, a Freeport, New York, developer who opposed all of Freeport being laid out in a grid, put up a Victorian house virtually overnight on a triangular plot at the corner of Lena Avenue and Wilson Place to spite the grid designers. The Freeport Spite House is still standing and occupied.
At the turn of the 20th century, the city of Alameda, California, took a large portion of Charles Froling’s land to build a street. Froling had planned to build his dream house on the plot of land he received through inheritance. To spite the city and an unsympathetic neighbor, Froling built a house 10 feet (3.0 m) deep, 54 feet (16 m) long and 20 feet (6.1 m) high on the tiny strip of land left to him. The Alameda Spite House is still standing and occupied.
In 1908, Francis O’Reilly owned an investment parcel of land in West Cambridge, Massachusetts, and approached his abutting land neighbor to sell the land for a gain. After the neighbor refused to buy the land, O’Reilly built a 308-square-foot (28.6 m2) building to spite the neighbor. The O’Reilly Spite House is still standing and was occupied by an interior decorating firm as of mid-2009.
In 1925, according to one common story, a Montlake, Seattle, Washington neighbor made an insultingly low offer for a tiny slice of adjoining land. Out of spite for the low offer, the builder built an 860-square-foot (80 m2) house that blocked the neighbors’ open space. However, there are other stories about how the house came to be, making its origins murky. The Montlake Spite House is still standing and occupied.
In 1874, two brothers in the North End of Boston, Massachusetts, got into a dispute. Each had previously inherited land from their deceased father. While the second brother was away serving in the military, the first brother built a large home, leaving the soldier only a shred of property that the first brother felt certain was too tiny to build on. When the soldier returned, he found his inheritance depleted and built a wooden house at 44 Hull St. to spite his brother by blocking the sunlight and ruining his view. The ‘Skinny House’ is still standing and occupied.
By Boston at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons