38 Things Done Out of Spite
Ah, spite: An emotion that causes us to act in ways that doesn’t do us any favors—and, in fact, might even cause us to suffer—but yet, somehow, still feels so good. Perhaps that’s why so many throughout history have built homes, erected fences, put up statues and monuments, created new colors, made their houses ugly, and started new companies in the name of spite.
1. The Nuns That Cut Off Their Noses
According to a 13th-century chronicler, nuns from a monastery in Scotland literally cut off their noses to spite their faces in 870 CE. Upon hearing the news that Viking raiders were approaching, the abbess, Aebbe the Younger, told the nuns to cut off their noses and upper lips, thus making them so unattractive to the Vikings that they wouldn’t be raped. It worked—the women weren’t raped, but the Vikings instead burned the monastery to the ground with the nuns inside. —Erin McCarthy
2. The Tyler Spite House
In 1814, as soon as ophthalmologist Dr. John Tyler discovered that the city officials of Frederick, Maryland, planned to build a road on an empty plot of his land, he started searching for a way to stop them. What he found was a law that prohibited road construction if a building was in the way. It didn’t even have to be a finished building, either—any work in progress would suffice. Tyler hired a builder to break ground immediately, and city workers were forced to abandon their assignment when they arrived the next day (apparently, Tyler was there when they arrived, seeming very pleased with his endeavor). Tyler saw his own project through to the end, erecting a three-story abode that he proceeded to rent out. It’s now fondly known as the Tyler Spite House. —Ellen Gutoskey
3. Edleston Spite House
Local lore says that when Joseph Edleston died in 1895, his family simply wanted to honor his contributions to the community of Gainford, England. The wealthy—and notoriously eccentric—family approached the local church and asked to construct a memorial on its grounds. The church, however, refused their request, and told the family they’d only be allowed to build a monument if they donated a portion of their land. Rather than part with their property, the Edlestons decided to construct a grand hall right near the border of the church’s land. They later erected a 40-foot column near the house, which still towers over the cemetery’s wall. —Kerry Wolfe
4. Stuart Semple's Black 3.0
The color war began when artist Sir Anish Kapoor acquired the exclusive rights to the world’s blackest substance at the time, Vantablack—and refused to share it with the artistic community. Enter British artist Stuart Semple, who, angered at Kapoor’s selfishness, created the “pinkest pink” and made it available for anyone to use … except Kapoor. Purchasers were obliged to agree to a statement that read: “By adding this product to your cart you confirm that you are not Anish Kapoor, you are in no way affiliated to Anish Kapoor, you are not purchasing this item on behalf of Anish Kapoor or an associate of Anish Kapoor. To the best of your knowledge, information and belief this paint will not make its way into the hands of Anish Kapoor.” When Kapoor got his hands on the pink pigment and posted a photo on Instagram, Semple decided he was going to go after Kapoor’s blackest paint. He eventually created Black 3.0, the flattest matte black acrylic paint that absorbs 99 percent of visible light (which isn’t as much as Vantablack, but Semple says that to the human eye they’re basically indistinguishable). This feud is sort of moot now, because in 2019, MIT engineers created an even blacker substance than Black 3.0 and Vantablack. —Tasia Bass
5. Marino Crescent
Often referred to as “Spite Crescent” by Dubliners, Marino Crescent—first built in 1792—is a collection of Georgian-style homes with enviable views of Dublin Bay that has counted Bram Stoker among its residents. Charles Ffolliott was the mastermind behind the development—which he designed specifically as a way to antagonize James Caulfeild, the 1st Earl of Charlemont, an Irish politician whose palatial Neo-Classical style-home, Marino House, and its extensive grounds were directly behind what would eventually become Marino Crescent. Caulfeild recognized that these new buildings would destroy his view of Dublin Bay, so he used his considerable wealth an influence to make Ffolliott’s construction as difficult and costly as possible, including over-charging him to use the one road that led to the site when tools and materials had to be delivered. So Ffolliott fought back: He had his materials delivered by boat instead, then built each of the Crescent’s 26 homes tall enough to block Caulfeild’s views. According to The Independent, legend even has it that Ffolliott “built the back of the terrace—the side facing Marino House—in a deliberately higgledy-piggledy style to maximise the ugly factor,” and that the two tallest houses were built even taller in order to block the views from Marino House’s living room windows. —Jennifer M. Wood
6. Adidas and Puma
Brothers Adolf and Rudolf Dassler had a hit on their hands in 1936 when athletes won seven gold medals at the Berlin Olympics while wearing the sneakers the duo had created. But by 1948, a feud between the two led to a split in their shoe business: Rudolf launched Puma (after a brief flirtation with the name Ruda), while Adolf formed Adidas (a portmanteau of his first and last name). The two allegedly never spoke again after their falling out, but that apparently wasn’t enough of a motivation for either to leave town. Both companies were located in Herzogenaurach, Germany, and even the townspeople who worked for them got swept up in the family feud. If you worked for Adidas, you wouldn’t be caught dead in a bar favored by Puma employees, and if your Adidas-employed family loved a bakery on the Puma side of town, you’d have to get your streuselkuchen elsewhere. The kicker? No one even knows why the brothers hated each other in the first place, though there are theories about one brother trying to turn the other in after World War II, or one brother having an affair with the other’s wife. —Jay Serafino
7. Moriarty Monument
There’s no connection to the Sherlock Holmes villain, but the Moriarty of this story is just as cunning. The monument in question is an 80-foot grave marker resting in New Orleans’s Metairie Cemetery. It was ordered by Daniel Moriarty, an Irish immigrant and affluent businessman who made a fortune in real estate. It's said that his modest upbringing meant his social status was affected: Moriarty didn’t come from “old money.” Moriarty seethed at the slight. After his wife Mary passed away in 1887, Daniel had the monument built as much to rub his wealth in his rivals’ faces as to honor his late spouse. Completed in 1905, its height may have been a metaphor for Mary “looking down” at the couple’s critics. Four statues said to represent faith, hope, charity, and alternately temperance, memory, or Mary herself sit at the base. Moriarty might as well have added a fifth, for spite. —Jake Rossen
8. The Alameda Spite House
The origins of this narrow home are as opaque as the windows on the neighboring house (the 12-foot-wide spite house completely blocks a good chunk of them). One legend holds that a previous landowner retaliated against the city of Alameda, California—and an unsympathetic neighbor—after his property was seized under eminent domain; he built the tiny house on what land he had left. Another story suggests that a feud between two brothers resulted in one selling off most of their property unbeknownst to the other, who built the house to spite his sibling. What is certain is that the house is a beloved local landmark that wears its spite proudly: A stained glass window above its door reads “Spite House.” —Kat Long
9. Doves Type Goes in the Thames
The Doves Press type was a casualty of a bitter falling out between Thomas Cobden-Sanderson and Emery Walker. In 1900, the two men founded Doves Press in Hammersmith, London. The printing house was famous for its distinctive typeface, which inked characters in an elegant, serif style. The relationship between the partners dissolved in 1909, and a compromise was reached that allowed Cobden-Sanderson to continue to use the typeface; after his death, it would go to Walker. But it’s said that Cobden-Sanderson was horrified at the thought that Walker would sully his typeface with lower-quality books printed on mechanical presses, so in the final years of his life, he deposited 2600 pounds of the Doves Press type into the River Thames. It took him months and roughly 170 trips to dispose of the remnants of his defunct business and partnership. Despite his efforts, Cobden-Sanderson was unsuccessful in destroying the piece of typography history: Divers were able to recover around 150 corroded artifacts from the riverbed in 2014. —Michele Debczak
10. The Crocker Spite Fence
In the 1870s, wealthy railroad man Charles Crocker began construction on a huge mansion in what is now the Nob Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, California. It took up most of a city block—except for the lot his neighbor, Nicholas Yung, ultimately refused to sell. Crocker was a man used to getting his way, and when he didn’t get his way in this situation, he decided to get even by building a 40-foot-tall spite fence around three sides of Yung’s property. This act of pettiness cost him a reported $3000 (more than $77,000 today). Though Yung and his family eventually moved, the property remained in their family until 1904, when Yung’s descendants finally sold the land to Crocker’s descendants. The spite fence (then a mere 25 feet tall) came down the next year. —E.M.
11. Al Ba’sa
Feuds within families can run the gamut between epic and downright petty. Falling in the latter category is Al Ba’sa, a.k.a. The Grudge house, in Beirut, Lebanon, which came about thanks to a disagreement between brothers. When their father died in the ‘50s, he left them land, one portion of which—because of several infrastructure projects—had a wonky shape. At first, the brothers couldn’t decide how to develop the land, but eventually, one of them developed the smaller part and constructed a narrow building to block his brother’s view of the ocean, sinking his property values in the process. Thirteen feet at its widest, and a mere 2 feet wide at its narrowest, Al Ba’sa is the thinnest building in Beirut and, incredibly, is habitable. And though it’s located on prime real estate, it’s not likely to go anywhere anytime soon: Under current Beirut law, the plot of land Al Ba’sa sits on is too small for any type of construction, so nothing new could be built there if it came down. —T.B.
12. The Cambridge Spite House
The Cambridge Spite House in Massachusetts grew out a classic case of vengeance. It's said that in 1908, Francis O'Reilly tried to persuade his neighbor to buy his 8-foot-wide plot of land. The neighbor said no, and O'Reilly figured the only logical response would be to construct a spite house as wide as the property allowed. The teeny abode on Concord Avenue now houses an interior design firm. —K.L.
13. The Hess Spite Triangle
Though it’s a mere 25 by 27 inches, Hess’s spite triangle, located at 110 7th Avenue S in the West Village neighborhood of Manhattan, sends a big message: “Property of the Hess Estate,” it reads, “which has never been dedicated for public purposes.” It all started in 1913, when the city began seizing properties and razing buildings in the area to make room for an extension of Seventh Avenue. Some landlords lost all of their properties, while others lost merely a portion. One of the property owners was the estate of David Hess, who had died a few years earlier. According to the Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger, sometime around 1921, the Hess estate got a bill for taxes on their “lot.” A surprised Frank Hess (son of David) went to New York and found “a piece scarcely large enough for the erection of a slot machine.” They leased the land to a neighboring cigar store with the provision that they “mark it that the city might know it had not been dedicated to public purposes.” Eventually the family would sell the triangle—message included—to the cigar store. —E.M.
Brückenmännchen translates to “little bridge man,” and this sculpture—of a man bent over, butt out—was added to the old Rhine river bridge connecting Bonn and Beuel in Germany in the late 19th century after the two villages argued over the construction project. When the bridge opened on December 17, 1898, a previously-hidden statue of a man sticking his bum toward Beuel was unveiled on the right-hand pier. Bonn's act of spite may not have had the impact they intended. It became a beloved icon in Beuel, appearing on postcards and banknotes. When the old bridge was destroyed in the Second World War, the Brückenmännchen was recovered and attached to a new bridge. It was eventually destroyed by vandals in 1960, and today a replica is displayed on Germany's Kennedy Bridge. —M.D.
It was not the meeting Ferruccio Lamborghini was hoping for. A tractor maker in 1960s Italy who enjoyed his Ferrari, Lamborghini was dismayed to find the clutch on his car wasn’t working properly. What happened next is a matter of some disagreement (according to some stories, Lamborghini decided to approach Enzo Ferrari with some helpful advice on how the problem could be resolved, which wasn't well-received; supposedly, Ferrari said that Lamborghini should stick to making tractors), but whatever happened, Lamborghini became irate at Enzo Ferrari—and was determined to build a better car. In 1963, Lamborghini began making the cars with help from five former Ferrari workers who had recently been fired. It was a spite-fest that started a decades-long rivalry between two Italian automotive powerhouses. —J.R.
16. Ford GT40
Ferruccio Lamborghini wasn’t the only enemy Enzo Ferrari had made in his career. Once, Ford Motor Company chief executive Henry Ford II—who wanted to get into racing and thought the easiest way would be to acquire another company with racing (and winning) experience—approached Ferrari with a deal to buy a 90 percent interest in his automotive company. Ferrari agreed, then backpedaled. A furious Ford told his staff to craft a car that could wipe out Ferrari at Le Mans, the famous 24-hour auto race in France that requires drivers to loop around an 8.4 mile track. Ford’s chief engineer Roy Lunn and race car builder Eric Broadley, alongside many others, developed the GT40, which went through a few races and iterations before ultimately beating the dominant Ferrari in the 1966 event. —J.R.
17. Collinsville Spite House
There are no surviving pictures of the Collinsville Spite House in Connecticut, but the story behind it has made it legendary among locals. It was allegedly constructed in the 19th century by a butcher looking to annoy his immediate neighbors. The narrow building was just big enough to separate their two houses. It stood two stories tall with venetian blinds blocking all the windows. Though it came from a place of spite, the story has a heartwarming ending. When he inherited the property, the butcher's son tore it down in an act of goodwill toward the home next door. —M.D.
18. A Spiteful Christmas Display
In the mid-2000s, the community of Ross Township, Pennsylvania, just north of Pittsburgh, was home to a dazzling Christmas light display on Bill Ansell’s front yard. Cars lined up to take it all in, crowds gathered, and a little money was even donated to charity along the way. But for people in the surrounding homes, the lights and traffic were a bit too much, leading one neighbor to complain to Ansell. And then another spoke up. Soon, Ansell’s holly-jolly ode to the holiday season took a crass turn—in the 2010s, he chose to make a statement out of his now-year-round display, trading bright lights full of joy and cheer for a display of statues that included a urinating Santa Claus, a beheaded choir, and one of Frosty getting mowed down by a car. He also posted explicit signs around his property, criticizing both the local government (including “F*** Ross Township” in string lights) and the neighbors with whom he’s had run-ins. Despite the fines and media attention, the exhibit remained up for years, with occasional social media posts popping up about it as recently as 2020. —J.S.
19. The Hollensbury Spite House
Nobody likes it when unwanted people wander onto their property—and Alexandria, Virginia, resident John Hollensbury was no exception. While no one is quite sure why he built it, the story goes that he was annoyed by horse-drawn wagons and noisy people were using and hanging out in the alley next to his home—so Hollensbury solved the problem by simply building another house to fill the alley. Constructed in 1830, what’s now known as the Hollensbury Spite House is just 7 feet wide and contains 350 square feet in its two stories, or “about as much space as a large outdoor billboard,” according to the Washington Post. Its interior walls are actually the exterior walls of the buildings on either side—and in fact, one of the walls holds gouges from the wheels of the carriages that annoyed Hollensbury so much. —T.B.
20. The Original Waldorf and Astoria Hotels
There was no love lost between William Waldorf Astor and his aunt, Caroline Schermerhorn Astor. Though they lived in neighboring mansions on Fifth Avenue in New York City, they hated each other—so much so that when William moved to England in 1890, he razed his mansion and built the 13-story-tall Waldorf Hotel, in part to irk his aunt. Caroline’s son (and William’s cousin), John Jacob Astor IV, convinced his mother to move uptown, then proceeded to knock down their mansion and built an even bigger hotel, which he called The Astoria Hotel. It was eventually combined with his cousin’s to create the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, proving that sometimes, spite pays off. (The hotel eventually moved uptown when the block it was on became the site of the Empire State Building.) —E.M.
21. The Old Spite House
According to the most popular story behind Marblehead, Massachusetts’s “Old Spite House,” it wasn’t built out of ill will, but constructed in 1716 for a sailmaker named Thomas Wood. An article in The Boston Globe says the sobriquet came later, while two feuding brothers were living there. Neither was willing to relent and sell his part of the estate, so they both stayed in their respective wings and gave each other the silent treatment the entire time. “During this long-standing family feud,” The Boston Globe recounted in 1984, “part of the house was well-maintained, while other parts were neglected—a fact that made the dwelling a subject of gossip and speculation and resulted in its unflattering nickname.” According to another story, however, there were four brothers living in the house; after a fight, one of the brothers proclaimed that he was going to take his share of the house away with him. He apparently did, which is—according to this tale, anyway—why the house appears to have a notch cut out of it. —E.G.
22. Castle of Spite
The last castle built in Scotland wasn’t made to house royalty or defend a community from invading forces. It was borne of a far less noble reason: spite. After the death of her husband in 1892, Mary Caroline, Duchess of Sutherland, was set to inherit a large chunk of his wealth. That is, until the Duke of Sutherland’s family—who never approved of his marriage to Mary—stepped in to dispute his will. The family finally agreed to give Mary a portion of the fortune she was meant to inherit (though she was convicted of destroying some documents to solidify her claim to the inheritance) and agreed to construct a castle for her outside the Sutherland lands. Rather than build her fortress on a private patch of paradise far away from her meddlesome in-laws, Mary opted to put her castle on a hill overlooking the Sutherland estate, where they’d be forced to see it. (One feature they wouldn’t see? A clock on the clock tower. The clock tower had clocks on all but one side, and it’s said to have been a deliberate statement that Mary didn’t want to give them the time of day—but it’s possible that the roofline was in the way so a clock just wouldn’t fit.) After serving as a youth hostel since the 1940s, Carbisdale Castle fell into disrepair and hit the market, along with its resident ghost Betty, in 2016 for a shockingly low £900,000. —K.W.
23. The Gaylordsville Cake Box Spite House
This five-tier house may look like it was once a delight, but it has a dark origin. In the ‘60s, a Polish immigrant, Jan Pol, lived in Gaylordsville, Connecticut, with his wife and their 15-year-old foster daughter. But when the 15-year-old gave birth, rumors spread that Pol was the father of his daughter’s baby, and the state took the newborn away. Pol denied that claim. He built the pink, tiered house in honor of the child, hoping that one day she and her mother would be reunited with him and his wife to live in the home—which never came to pass. Today, the sight of the house serves as a reminder of a sad story. —T.B.
24. Connie Mack Spite Fence
Throughout the 1920s and early '30s, the Philadelphia Athletics tolerated the fact that not all of the fans watching their games were paying customers. That’s because the homes in the neighborhood of Shibe Park on 20th Street provided a clear view of the action from second-story windows and makeshift bleachers on the rooftops. The team didn’t even mind that certain fans charged admission for access to these prime spots. But that was during the good times when the team was in the middle of its second dynasty led by manager Connie Mack. By 1933, however, the Great Depression had ravaged the city, and the team’s roster of future Hall of Famers had to be sold off as ticket sales dwindled. And as the metaphorical walls came down around the squad, a physical one went up. By Opening Day 1935, the team raised its 12-foot outfield fence by—depending on source—anywhere from 20 to 38 feet, blocking the 20th Street view and snuffing out any enterprising fans who wanted to dip their hands into the team’s coffers. Despite being known as “Connie Mack’s Spite Fence,” the wall was actually the doing of owner Jack Shibe. The bean counters originally thought the wall would bring paying fans back into the ballpark, but the crowds continued to shrink as the Athletics sank further into baseball irrelevancy, leading to their move to Kansas City following the 1954 season and Oakland starting in the 1968 season. —J.S.
25. The Mystic Spite House
In the 1810s, Captain Avery Brown, a privateer and during the War of 1812 [PDF], built his home at 11 Gravel Street in Mystic, Connecticut. His neighbor, John Fellows, apparently wanted to ruin Brown’s view of the river, so, around 1836, he constructed a giant home with Cape Cod and Greek Revival elements that sat right on the street, blocking Brown’s view (and the view of 9 Gravel Street, too [PDF]). Exactly why Fellows was feeling spiteful is a mystery. —T.B.
26. The “Skinny House”
The 10-foot-wide Skinny House in Boston’s North End boasts four stories, zero front doors, and a history steeped in spite. As the legend goes, one son hogged all the land inheritance while building his huge new house, much to the chagrin of his brother, who’d been away serving in the Civil War. Instead of working out a compromise upon his return, the second brother simply squeezed a very skinny abode into the remaining space, wrecking his brother’s view and residing slightly too close for comfort. But it's apparently comfortable enough—the house recently sold for $1.25 million. —E.G.
27. The Jealous Wall
A case of truly acrimonious sibling rivalry led to construction of The Jealous Wall, which was designed to look like an ancient ruin (also known as a “sham ruin”) and is the largest such structure in Ireland. The wall is located on the grounds of Belvedere House Gardens & Park, a storied 160-acre estate in Mullingar, County Westmeath. The historic property is riddled with follies (ornamental buildings), the most famous of them being The Jealous Wall, which was built circa 1760 by Robert Rochfort, first Earl of Belvedere and owner of Belvedere House, who was reportedly so enraged when his brother George built his own—and much more lavish—home right next door that Robert had the wall constructed so his enviable eyes wouldn’t have to see his brother’s abode. —J.M.W.
28. The Sam Kee Building
Merchant Chang Toy (also known as Sam Kee, since his company was called the Sam Kee Company) hadn’t yet built anything on a Vancouver lot he’d purchased in 1903 when officials seized most of the property for a road-widening operation in 1912. Frustrated that the city hadn’t fairly compensated him, he hung onto the remaining strip of empty land and constructed a 6-foot-wide building on it the following year. The basement became a bathhouse, the first floor housed offices and shops, and people lived on the top floor. In 2003, Canada officially recognized it as a heritage site, and it’s currently owned by Jack Chow Insurance. —E.G.
29. Inat Kuća
After Austria-Hungary gained control of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the late 19th century, it set out to prove its power by building grand structures. One plan included constructing an impressive city hall in Sarajevo. But one old man refused to let the empire have its way. Despite several attempts to acquire his land and demolish his house, the elderly resident refused to budge, thwarting the government’s plans to build the town hall. Eventually, the man agreed to let the officials take his land—but only if they gave him a bag of ducats (gold coins) and moved his house brick-by-brick to a new plot of land across the river. The house—called Inat Kuća, which translates to “House of Spite”—still stands today. It became a restaurant that serves traditional Bosnian cuisine in 1997. —K.W.
30. The Freeport Spite House
In the early 20th century, Long Island developer John Randall opposed a rival developer's plans to extend the road near his property with a straight line, believing that would reduce his land’s frontage and reduce the value significantly. As the village trustees were weighing how to handle the dispute, Randall decided to take things into his own hands and constructed a large home on his property—practically overnight. “Mechanics are rushing along the building of Mr. Randall’s new house so as to get it well advanced before the village trustees make up their minds what to do,” a March 1902 issue of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle noted. He even laid out the road in the orientation he wanted it to be built. Ultimately, Randall’s gambit worked: The streets were redirected around the home, which still stands at the intersection of Lena Avenue and Wilson Place. —K.L.
31. Redneck Stonehenge
It’s best to remain on the good side of Rhett Davis. The Hooper, Utah, farmer got into a squabble with a neighbor in 2008. The unnamed individual complained that Davis’s property smelled bad; Davis, wary of encroaching suburban types, offered to split the cost of a fence to remain neighborly. When the neighbor refused because, according to Davis, the fence would block their view, he decided to have a little fun: He took three junk cars from Ford and Toyota, stuck them nose-first in the dirt, and dubbed it “Redneck Stonehenge.” The complaints seemed to dry up, and Davis announced his intentions to take it down later that year after collecting donations for charity from visitors eager to see the spectacle. The point had been made. “Don’t mess with a redneck who has a backhoe,” he said. —J.R.
32. The Pan House
Perhaps the Pan House didn't emerge from a purely spiteful impulse, but merely an idiosyncratic view of the sharing economy. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Lithuania promoted private home ownership for the first time in decades. An engineer named Edmundas Vaičiulis bought half of a house in the town of Žagaré, but the owner of the other half didn't want to change any of its infrastructure. So Vaičiulis began decorating the outside of the building with an assortment of metal pans, pots, machine parts, and other industrial refuse. Though it began as a statement of individuality, the Pan House is today one of Lithuania's most Instagrammable landmarks. —K.L.
33. Montlake Spite House
Whatever the origins of the wedge-shaped Montlake House in Seattle, Washington, built in 1925, spite is baked into its blueprint. According to one story, a woman walked away from a nasty divorce with an awkwardly-laid-out piece of land. Instead of leaving it empty like her ex-husband must have hoped for, she built a pie-slice-shaped home that fit perfectly onto the property. Another legend says that the structure went up when someone down the road offered to buy the land for an insultingly low amount. The owner got their revenge by erecting the odd building to block their neighbor's view. Today, the spite house—which is 15 feet wide on one end and 55 inches at the other, just wide enough for a door—is a treasured Seattle landmark. In 2018, it hit the market for $600,000. —M.D.
34. Kavanagh Building
The 390-foot-tall Kavanagh Building in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is a striking marriage of art deco and modernist styles. It was also apparently placed at the Plaza San Martín purely out of spite. As the story goes, the building itself was commissioned by the wealthy Corina Kavanagh, who had fallen in love with an even wealthier member of the Anchorena family. As the rich are wont to do, the Anchorenas decided Corina didn’t come from the right kind of money and allegedly ended the engagement. Heartbroken, Corina then decided to use her fortune for revenge.
The Anchorena family had built a beautiful church—the Basílica del Santísimo Sacramento—that could be seen from their mansion. So when work on the Kavanagh Building got underway, Corina made sure it was located at just the right spot and was just tall enough to block the Anchorena’s view of their beloved house of worship. —J.S.
35. Thomas McCobb Spite House
Instead of being an eyesore like some other spite houses, Thomas McCobb's former house in Rockport, Maine, was built to be as ornate and impressive as possible. McCobb's father passed away in the late 18th century, leaving him the family's elegant Georgian mansion in Phippsburg. At least that's what McCobb thought. Upon returning home from a voyage at sea in 1806, he learned that his stepbrother had married his sister and taken possession of the home. Thomas McCobb built an even bigger mansion in the area to overshadow the property he felt was rightfully his. The house was relocated to Rockport in 1925. —M.D.
36. Gloucester Spite Wall
In Thornbury, England, a market town in Gloucestershire, about 100 miles west of London, a curious brick wall has been the source of local gossip for 150 years. At 22 Gloucester Road, a tall and somewhat haphazard brick wall makes it so that the home’s residents cannot see the house right next door at 24 Gloucester Road, and vice versa—which is exactly what the wall was intended to do, according to local lore. The story goes that a dressmaker named Anna Maria Pitcher did some housecleaning on the side for a nearby family. One day, Pitcher took a day off from her cleaning duties, claiming that she was “indisposed.” But when her cleaning client walked by her house later, they saw Anna Maria helping one of her clothing clients, and was so bothered that she had blown them off to attend to her fashion business that they reported to Anna Maria’s landlord that she was running a business out of the home, which was a violation of her lease. When the Pitchers later purchased the property at 24 Gloucester Road, Anna Maria was free to run her business out of her home. But she was reportedly still so bothered by the prior incident that they erected the stone wall so that no more nosy neighbors could peer in. The biggest hole in this story is that the deed to 22 Gloucester Road apparently notes that the wall actually belongs to that property … but let’s not let a little detail like that stand in the way of a perfectly good spite wall story. —J.M.W.
37. Richardson Spite House
In 1882, two real estate developers named Hyman Sarner and Patrick McQuade approached landowner Joseph Richardson in New York with an offer. They wanted to buy a small strip of land at 82nd Street and Lexington Avenue measuring just over 100 feet long by 5 feet wide to accommodate an apartment building. Their offer was a firm $1000, because they couldn’t imagine there would be any competing interest. But Richardson asked for a steep $5000, which the developers refused to pay. They built the apartments and left the small strip alone. But Richardson wouldn’t be dismissed so easily. He constructed a four-story tenement house (which was actually two houses) that would be just large enough to cover the tenants’ windows with bricks. Barely livable, with furniture built to accommodate the paltry 5-foot width, Richardson’s spite house succeeded for a while, with Richardson both living there and taking great merriment in its existence until his death in 1897. It was torn down in 1915. —J.R.
38. Striped House
It’s no secret that stripes tend to clash with whatever’s around them. Such was the case in London, where a property developer named Zipporah Lisle-Mainwaring decided to paint her townhouse with vivid red and white stripes in 2015. The candy cane-colored building drastically stood out against the surrounding homes in the wealthy neighborhood, much to the neighbors’ chagrin. Lisle-Mainwaring had originally intended to demolish the space and transform it into a luxury home; when those plans were denied, people speculated she gave the building its garish makeover out of spite. (She, however, said that she painted the building to “add to the gaiety of the nation.”) A court order demanding she repaint the house to a more muted color was overturned, and Lisle-Mainwaring finally received permission to redevelop the original building into her dream residence in 2017. —K.W.
BONUS: The Virginia City “Spite House”
It’s often difficult to determine what’s a spite structure and what’s just a weird building. Since there are rarely diaries or memoirs explicitly explaining motivations, most stories fall under the category “local legends.” And those aren’t always reliable—with the Virginia City, Nevada, spite house, for instance, the story goes that two miners really didn’t like each other, so when one of the miners bought a delightful home, the other decided to buy the adjoining lot and build a house abutting the first, blocking the first miner’s view.
But according to Nevada historian Ronald M. James, nothing of the sort happened. What actually happened was this: When Virginia City was being built in the 19th century, the houses were being constructed close together just as a matter of course. Then, as the population of the area collapsed following the decline of the mines (going from an estimated 25,000 in the 1870s to just hundreds by the Great Depression), the people who stayed bought the newly-abandoned houses for firewood. According to James, “The pattern of demolition became so common that houses remaining side by side, once the rule in the core of Virginia City, have become a rare curiosity. One of the best surviving examples is known on the Comstock as the ‘spite houses.’ Local folklore maintains that they were built close as an expression of a dispute between neighbors. Memory of the original arrangement of houses has faded so completely that an oral tradition has grown up to explain what has become an anomaly.” —Austin Thompson