8 Houses Built Just for Spite

The Skinny House in Boston.
The Skinny House in Boston. / Rhododendrites, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

Your town probably has an architectural oddity or two, a building that locals point out to visitors. In many cases, these are spite houses—constructed to make someone mad. Sometimes they block a neighboring house's view. Sometimes they're built especially to thwart city planners or challenge city ordinances. In many cases, they're an odd shape, or are built on a very small lot. Sometimes the houses are already in existence, and are altered to get revenge, like the Australia homeowner who painted his house pink and added a pig snout and a tail to protest a denied building permit.

1. The Hollensbury Spite House // Alexandria, Virginia

This 7-foot-wide house was built in 1830 by the cranky owner of one of the buildings next door because he wanted to keep people from using the alley next to his house.

2. The Tyler Spite House // Frederick, Maryland

thisisbossi, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

This 1814 mansion was built hastily by a local doctor who wanted to prevent the town from building a road through his property. A local law stipulated that the city couldn't build a road if a building was being constructed in the path of the road, so Dr. Tyler quickly ordered that a foundation be poured for this mansion.

3. The Old Spite House // Marblehead, Massachusetts

There's no consensus on why this oddly shaped house was built this way, but many people speculate that it was occupied by a pair of brothers. One brother, angry about the way their inheritance was divided up, built his section of the house in such a way that it blocked his brother's view.

4. The Skinny House // Boston, Massachusetts

The Skinny House.
The Skinny House. / Boston, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Another disputed inheritance between brothers resulted in the Skinny House. One brother reportedly built a large house on land he shared with his brother. When the second brother returned from serving in the military, he built this skinny house to block the sunlight from his brother's house. The four-story house is wider in the front than in the back.

5. The Sam Kee Building // Vancouver, Canada

The Sam Kee Building.
The Sam Kee Building. / Bobanny, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

When the city decided to widen Pender Street, it took a big bite out of the plot of land owned by the Sam Kee Company. In 1913, the company built a commercial building less than 5 feet wide. Extra space is achieved with pop-out windows on the second floor that overhang the sidewalk.

6. The Cambridge Spite House // Cambridge, Massachusetts

The Cambridge Spite House.
The Cambridge Spite House. / ArnoldReinhold, Wikimedia Commons // CC by SA

What is it about spiteful landowners in Massachusetts? In 1908, Francis O'Reilly got angry when the owner of the adjacent parcel of land refused to buy his land for a good price—so he built a house measuring 8 feet wide. The interior designer who now occupies the space has said that the building is like a three-dimensional billboard for her work.

7. Alameda Spite House // Alameda, California

This beloved local landmark in Northern California was built when the city appropriated a large portion of the lot to build a street. Undaunted, the owner built a house anyway. It's ten feet wide and is still occupied over a hundred years later.

8. Freeport Spite House // Freeport, New York

The city's attempt to lay the streets out in a perfect grid was thwarted by a landowner who built a Victorian house on a triangular plot of land. Aerial views of this town in New York show that the streets had to loop around the large plot, destroying their symmetry.