Spite house NY 1895

The Richardson Spite House in 1895

A spite house is a building constructed or modified to irritate neighbors or other parties with land stakes. Spite houses often serve as obstructions, blocking out light or access to neighboring buildings, or as flamboyant symbols of defiance.[1][2] Because long-term occupation is at best a secondary consideration, spite houses frequently sport strange and impractical structures.

Spite houses are much rarer than spite fences.[1] This is partially attributable to the fact that modern building codes often prevent the construction of houses likely to impinge on neighbors' views or privacy.[3]


  • Probably the most famous spite house was the Richardson Spite House in New York City at Lexington Avenue and 82nd Street. Built in 1882[4] and demolished in 1915, it was four stories tall, 104 feet (31.7 m) long, and only five feet (1.5 m) wide. Joseph Richardson, the owner of the plot of the same dimensions, built it after the owner of the adjacent plot, Hyman Sarner, unsuccessfully tried to purchase the land. Sarner considered the plot useless by itself and offered only $1000; Richardson demanded $5000. After the deal fell through, Richardson had an apartment building constructed on his land. It was a functional (albeit impractical) apartment building with eight suites, each consisting of three rooms and a bath.[5]
The Old Spite House, Marblehead, MA

The Old Spite House of Marblehead, Massachusetts in 1912

  • In 1716, Thomas Wood, a sailmaker, built a home in Marblehead, Massachusetts which subsequently received the sobriquet of The Old Spite House. One theory has it that it was inhabited by two brothers who occupied different sections, would not speak to each other, and refused (out of spite) to sell to the other.[6] In another explanation for the presently occupied ten-foot (3 m) wide home, which is just tall enough to block the view of two other houses on Orne Street, the builder was upset about his tiny share of his father's estate and his revenge was a house built to spite his older brothers' views.[7] The Old Spite House is still standing and occupied.[7]
McCobb Spite House July 1960

The McCobb Spite House at Deadman's Point in July 1960.

  • In 1806, Thomas McCobb, heir to his father's Phippsburg, Maine land and shipbuilding business, returned home from sea to discover that his stepbrother Mark had inherited the family "Mansion in the Wilderness".[8] Upset about his loss, McCobb built a home directly across from the McCobb mansion to spite his stepbrother.[8] The National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey photographed and documented the 1925 move of the McCobb Spite House by barge from Phippsburg to Deadman's Point in Rockport, Maine.[9][10][11]
2008 03 28 - Frederick - Tyler Spite House 1

The Tyler Spite House in Frederick, Maryland, located at the southern terminus of Record Street

  • In 1814, Dr. John Tyler, an eminent ophthalmologist and the first American-born physician to perform a cataract operation, owned a parcel of land near the courthouse square in Frederick, Maryland.[12] The city made plans to extend Record Street south through Tyler's land to meet West Patrick Street.[12] 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.[12] To spite the city, Tyler immediately had workmen pour a building foundation, which was discovered by the road crews the next morning.[12][13]
  • In 1830, John Hollensbury's home in Alexandria, Virginia was one of two homes directly bordering an alleyway which received an annoying amount of horse-drawn wagon traffic and loiterers.[14] To prevent people from using the alleyway, Hollensbury constructed a 7-foot (2.1 m) wide, 25-foot (7.6 m) deep, 325-square-foot (30.2 m2), two-story home using the existing brick walls of the adjacent homes for the sides of the new home.[14] The brick walls of the Hollensbury Spite House living room have gouges from wagon-wheel hubs, and the house is still standing and occupied.[14]

The Skinny House in the North End of Boston, Massachusetts is an extremely narrow four-story spite house reported by The Boston Globe as having the "uncontested distinction of being the narrowest house in Boston".

  • In 1874, two brothers in the North End of Boston, Massachusetts got into a dispute.[15][16] Each had previously inherited land from their deceased father.[15] 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.[15] 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.[15] The outside of the house spans 10.4 feet (3.2 m) and tapers to 9.25 feet (2.82 m) in the rear.[15] The Skinny House is still standing and occupied.[15][16]
  • In 1880, Adam Schilling owned a tract of Template:Convert/LoffAoffDbSoffNa adjoining the town of Hiawatha, Kansas.[17] Schilling sold three-quarters of an acre of this land, on which a house eventually was built and became owned by James Falloon.[17] Together, the Template:Convert/LoffAoffDbSoffNa were well-suited to be added to the town of Hiawatha, but Falloon refused to sell Schilling his three-quarters of an acre at the low price offered by Schilling.[17] To spite his neighbor, Schilling then built a cheap tenement house on his own property 13 feet (4.0 m) from Falloon's with the "oppressive and unlawful idea of rendering Falloon's home obnoxious and unendurable to Falloon and family" by renting to people whom Falloon might find objectionable.[17]
  • Prior to 1898, a home was erected in Salem, Massachusetts to "cut off the view of a neighbor".[18] After the owner died, his heirs agreed in 1898 to have the Salem Spite House torn down to avoid a "vexatious lawsuit with the obnoxious neighbor".[18]
  • In the 19th century, a Collinsville, Connecticut butcher feuded with his neighbor.[19] To spite his neighbor, the butcher built between their adjoining houses a narrow, two-story structure with windows covered by Venetian blinds.[19] The wooden building located between 23 and 25 River St. was the width of a standard stairway and allowed the butcher to block the sun to the neighbor's home and block the neighbor's view of the butcher's property at will.[19][20] The butcher's son got along with the family next door and eventually tore down the Collinsville Spite House.[19]
  • Also 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.[21][22] The Freeport Spite House is still standing and occupied.[21]
  • AlamedaSpiteHouse

    The Alameda Spite House, July 2008

    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.[23] To spite the city and an unsympathetic neighbor, Froling built a house 10 feet (3.0 m) wide, 54 feet (16 m) long and 20 feet (6.1 m) high on the tiny strip of land left to him.[23] The Alameda Spite House is still standing and occupied.[23] (Pictures are below right).
  • In 1904, the family of a deceased Joseph Edleston owned a plot of land next to the churchyard of St. Mary's in Gainford, England.[24] The children asked to erect a monument in the churchyard in memory of Joseph's 41-year tenure at the church.[24] The church refused permission, asserting that the churchyard was full but that the family could donate their land to the church and then build a monument on part of it.[24] Feeling slighted, the family immediately set about building themselves a house on their land with a 40-foot (12 m) column erected next to the churchyard so it towered over the trees and pointed a huge V-sign in stone towards the church authorities.[24] The Edleston Spite House is still standing and occupied, and has MCMIV (1904) over the front door.[24]
  • SpiteHouseWestCambridgeMA.agr

    O'Reilly Spite House, West Cambridge, MA, June 2009

    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.[25] After the neighbor refused to buy the land, O'Reilly built a 308-square-foot (28.6 m2) building, measuring 37 feet (11 m) long and only 8 feet (2.4 m) wide to spite the neighbor.[25] The O'Reilly Spite House is still standing[25]and is occupied by an interior decorating firm as of mid-2009.[26]
  • Prior to 1914, the Austro-Hungarians who ruled Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina wanted land in the Sarajevo Old Town district to build a city hall and library.[27] The land had a home on it and, despite offering the owner money, he refused and continued to refuse even when told that he had to move.[27] When the officials threatened him, he moved the house and rebuilt it, piece by piece, on the other side of the Miljacka river, as a way of spiting the officials.[27] The Sarajevo Spite House operates today as a restaurant called "Inat Kuca" (which means "Spite House").[27]
Montlake Spite House 05

Alley view: the thin end of the Montlake Spite House (left) and the house it blocks from 24th.

  • In 1925, a Montlake, Seattle, Washington neighbor made an insultingly low offer for a tiny slice of adjoining land.[28] Out of spite for the low offer, the builder built an 860-square-foot (80 m2) house which blocked the neighbors' open space.[28] The house is 55 inches (1.4 m) wide at the south end, and 15 feet (4.6 m) wide at the north end.[28] The Montlake Spite House is still standing and occupied.[28]
  • In the 1950s, two Virginia City, Nevada neighbors got into a dispute.[29] When one of the men built a new house, the other bought the lot next to it and built a house less than 12 inches (30 cm) from his neighbor's house in spite to deprive the neighbor of both view and breeze.[29] The Virginia City Spite House is still standing and occupied.[29]
  • In 1985, a Sunrise, Florida homeowner painted his home hot pink and passionate purple to spite the city, which had given him several tickets for parking his glass company vans overnight in front of his home, in violation of a city code related to residential night parking of commercial vehicles.[30] Characterized as a spite house painted in retaliation against the city,[30] the pink and purple paint job was deemed the owner permitting graffiti or other inscribed materials to remain and likely violate the Sunrise city code section prohibiting eyesores that also were public nuisances.[31]

Other usesEdit

The term "spite house" also relates to an old Southern United States custom of consigning an ostracized family member to a very small second house on the family land "where he was expected to live in solitude as punishment for having embarrassed his family".[32]

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 Kelly, John, March 26, 2006, Washington Post Answer Man: In Search Of Houses That Spite Built. Page C02.
  2. United States National Park Service, 1960, Historical American Building Survey: Spite (McCobb-Dodge) House - Page 2. Accessed March 20, 2008.
  3. Cold Spots: Tyler's Spite House
  4. New York Times, March 28, 1895, 'Sues for Dower Rights; Louise Ann Burl's Claims as Capt. Richardson's Widow. Page 3.
  5. The story of the Richardson Spite House.
  6. Boston Globe, October 14, 1984, The challenge of renovating Marblehead's Spite House, where children and pets live harmoniously with antiques. Section: Special. The Old Spite House is located at Orne St & Gas House Ln, Marblehead, MA 01945.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Miller, Margo, October 17, 1986, Boston Globe Living by the sea - Boston's waterfront homes on tour. Section: At home; Page 29.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Brand, Andrea, 2007, - History. Accessed March 19, 2008. Present Location: McCobb Spite House, Deadman's Point, Rockport, Maine 04488.
  9. Phippsburg Spite House on Its Way to Rockport, Maine 1925.
  10. Library of Congress. Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey. "Spite" House, Deadman's Point (moved from Phippsburg, ME), Rockport vicinity, Knox County, ME.
  11. attractions.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Williams, N, April 29, 1990, Los Angeles Times This Maryland House was built just for spite. Section: travel; Page 14. Location: Tyler Spite House, 112 W Church St, Frederick, MD 21701.
  13. A Matter of Spite
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Bailey, Steve, February 29, 2008, The New York Times A Tiny, Beloved Home That Was Built for Spite. Section: F; Page F6. Location: 523 Queen St, Alexandria, VA 22314.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 15.5 Cronin, Jim, February 13, 2005, The Boston Globe Living sideways down a skinny alley through a side front door. Section: City Weekly; Page 1. Location: 44 Hull St, Boston, MA 02113.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Boston Globe, November 21, 1997, Ask the Globe. Section: National/Foreign; Page C22.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 Ames, James Barr; Smith Jeremiah. (1893) A Selection of Cases on the Law of Torts. Page 730.
  18. 18.0 18.1 The New York Times, April 4, 1898, Topics of the times. Page 6. (Abstract).
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 Hirsh, Linda B, April 17, 1994 Hartford Courant Walking Tour Puts the Traveler in 19th-Century Collinsville. Section: Town News Extra; Page H1.
  20. Hirsh, Linda B, April 17, 1994, Hartford Courant The Canton Time Machine; But There Are Some Places That Can Only Be Remembered. Section: Town News Extra; page H1.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Mason-Draffen, Carrie, March 30, 1997, Newsday Living In - Diversity Freely Spices Freeport. Section: Life; Page E25. The Freeport Spite House is located at the intersection of: Wilson Place, Long Beach Avenue, and Lena Avenue in Freeport, New York.
  22. Also see, Long Island Memories Collection : Item Viewer. (Accessed March 25, 2008) Five Corners, Freeport, L.I..
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Rubin, Sylvia, January 7, 1988, San Francisco Chronicle Neighbor against neighbor; Mediators can resolve disputes. Section: People, Page B3. The Alameda Spite House is located at Broadway & Crist St, Alameda, CA 94501.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 24.4 Lloyd, Chris, January 5, 2005, The Northern Echo Echo Memories - Offeuds and fiefdoms in little Gainford. Page 8.
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 Bloom, Jonathan, February 2, 2003, Boston Globe Existing by the Thinnest of Margins. A Concord Avenue Landmark Gives New Meaning to Cozy. Section: City Weekly; Page 11. Location: 260 Concord Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138.
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 Barnett, Tracy, June 25, 2006, San Antonio Express-News Honey and blood. Section: Travel; Page 1L.
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 28.3 Koss, Bill, October 29, 2000, The Seattle Times Homing in on the city of the $15,000 sofa What's really old, strange and expensive? These things. Section: Pacific Northwest; Page 4. Location: 2022 24th Ave E, Seattle, WA 98112.
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 Lonsford, Michael, July 3, 1988, Houston Chronicle Ghosts of Old West haunt Virginia City streets. Section: Travel; Page 1.
  30. 30.0 30.1 Gayoso, Jay, July 7, 1985, South Florida Sun-Sentinel Sunrise man fighting color wars. Section: Local; Page 1B.
  31. Gayoso, Jay, July 9, 1985, South Florida Sun-Sentinel Paint job a protest against city code. Section: West, page 3. For descriptions of the Sunrise City's graffiti code violation, see Sunrise Code Enforcement Baker's Dozen.
  32. Cragg, Dan. March 22, 1997, Washington Times Not the Garwood Marines remember. Section: Commentary Book Review, page C3. (review of Jensen-Stevenson, Monika, June 1997, Spite House: The Last Secret War in Vietnam. Publisher: Diane Pub Co. ISBN 075675013X)

External linksEdit


  1. For a fictional story centered on the house, see McGovern, Ann. Gerberg, Mort, February 1980, Mr. Skinner's Skinny House Publisher: Atheneum. ISBN 0027657302

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