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Spite Houses: 12 Homes Created With Anger and Angst

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Library of Congress

What's not to love about a building called a "spite house?" In an essay in the New York Times, writer Kate Bolick discusses her dream of owning the Plum Island Pink House, a forlorn, decaying structure in Newbury, Massachusetts set in the middle of a salt marsh. The romantic, reclusive home stands alone for a reason; built by a recently divorced husband for his ex-wife as a condition of their separation, it's an exact duplicate of their shared home, just uncomfortably moored in the middle of remote wetlands and constructed without any running fresh water. The square loner is part of a small but ignoble tradition of spite houses, buildings created for malice instead of comfort meant to irritate or enrage neighbors, or occasionally piss off anyone unfortunate enough to be dwelling inside. Normally built to block a neighbor's light or access, they can be found as early at the 18th century. Here are some examples of homes or apartment that were built, or painted, out of anger.

skinny house" was supposedly built by a Civil war vet to get back at his brother, who had erected a massive home on land they were supposed to share. The smaller home was deliberately created to block the light going into the larger home.

John Hollensbury built this home in an alley in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1830 to block foot traffic and horses that would keep him awake in his adjacent home.

When Zipporah Lisle-Mainwaring, a resident of the posh London neighborhood of Kensington, discovered her renovation plans were rejected due to complaints from neighbors, she got revenge with this candy cane paint job, which adds an extra degree of spite by leaving the last stripe unfinished.

Located across the street from the famously homophobic Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, this rainbow-colored neighbor, purchased and painted in 2013, was the work of Aaron Jackson, the founder of the non-profit group Planting Peace.


In 1882, clothier Hyman Sarner wanted to build homes on property he owned near Lexington Avenue in New York City, but noticed a small strip of land between the street and his proposed building. He made an offer to owner Joseph Richardson, who felt he was being low-balled and refused. Sarner went ahead anyway, building apartments with windows overlooking Richardson's land. This incensed Richardson who, in response, built a tiny, five-foot wide apartment building on the seemingly worthless parcel to piss off Sarner. The resulting building, which was torn down in 1915, was so narrow only one person at a time could use the stairs, and when reporters came to check out the oddity after it was built, one became caught inside and had to be rescued.

In 2001, in Lubbock, Texas, city officials cited this home for having too many unrelated tenants living together. The landlord and occupants of what is now known as the Purple House responded by painting it in increasingly outlandish colors and patterns as protest.

When Dr. John Tyler discovered the government of Frederick, Maryland, planned to build a road that would cross through recently purchased property. Tyler wouldn't have it, and, inspired by a law that said the city couldn't build a road if a substantial structure was in its way, erected a foundation overnight to prevent the city from extending the road. The building is currently being used as a bed and breakfast.


Instead of just holding a grudge when he felt he was denied his rightful inheritance, Thomas McCobb decided to do something about it. In 1806, McCobb's stepbrother inherited a building in Phippsburg, Maine, he believed was rightfully his, so he constructed this building to overshadow the family home. The Federal-style building has since been moved. Image via Library of Congress.


Built to spite the owner of the larger, adjacent home, this 4.5-foot-wide home in Seattle, built in 1925, has become part of local folklore with a few competing stories seeking to explain how such as odd structure came to be (one suggests it was the result of a divorce settlement where the husband was awarded the home, and the wife the front yard). It's surprisingly roomy, considering its dimensions.

Take a Peek Inside Boston's Legendary 'Skinny House' [Curbed Boston]