10 Houses Built Out of Spite

The "Skinny House" in the North End of Boston is an extremely narrow but surprisingly tall spite house.
The "Skinny House" in the North End of Boston is an extremely narrow but surprisingly tall spite house.
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Your town probably has an architectural oddity or two; a building locals love to point out to visitors. But the buildings in this list are no whimsical creations—they were borne of pure spite. Some were constructed to block a nearby house's view or feed a family feud, while others were made to thwart city planners. Here are 10 spite houses that prove that though good fences make good neighbors, vengeful construction makes for way better neighborhood history.

1. The Hollensbury Spite House // Alexandria, Virginia

When most people want to keep people away from their property, they build a simple fence. But that wasn’t enough for John Hollensbury. The cranky brickmaker built this 7-foot-wide house in 1830 to prevent people from using the alley next to his home, as he was miffed that wagon traffic kept nicking his walls.

2. The Tyler Spite House // Frederick, Maryland

The Tyler Spite House blocked the creation of a road.Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

John Tyler, an ophthalmologist, hastily built this 1814 mansion 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 said road, so the doctor quickly ordered that a foundation be poured for this mansion.

3. The Virginia City Spite House // Virginia City, Nevada

In the 1950s, a miner decided to build himself a house in downtown Virginia City, Nevada. But his charming white abode did not prove to be a peaceful sanctuary. One of his enemies later purchased the empty lot next door and constructed his own home less than a foot away, blocking his view and cutting off the ventilation on that side of the house.

4. The Old Spite House // Marblehead, Massachusetts

A 1912 postcard of The Old Spite House.Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

According to local legend, this unusual abode was borne of brotherly ill will. One brother, angry about the way their land was divided up, built his section of the house in such a way that it blocked his sibling's view.

5. The “Skinny House” // Boston, Massachusetts

Another disputed inheritance between brothers resulted in Boston’s Skinny House. One brother built a home that reportedly took up more than his fair share of the land. When the second brother returned from serving in the military, he built a skinny house to block the sunlight from his brother's building. The resulting architectural oddity doesn’t even have a front door, meaning people have to squeeze in through a side door that looks more like a window.

6. The Sam Kee Building // Vancouver, British Columbia

The Sam Kee Building is a remarkably skinny commercial space.Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

When Vancouver officials decided to widen Pender Street, their plan took a big bite out of the plot of land owned by the Sam Kee Company—without properly compensating Chang Toy, the company’s owner. In 1913, Toy built a commercial building on the narrow sliver of ground he still retained. The resulting structure is only 6 feet wide. Extra space is achieved with pop-out windows on the second floor, which overhang the sidewalk.

7. The Alameda Spite House // Alameda, California

There are two origin theories for this beloved Northern California landmark. One purports a man named Charles Froling built the house after Alameda attempted to claim his land to construct a street, while another chocks it up to sibling rivalry. The unusual house is still occupied, and thanks to a stained glass window emblazoned with the words “Spite House,” it wears its vengeful history proudly.

8. The Cambridge Spite House // Cambridge, Massachusetts

It looks like a shed, but this tiny building is actually a spite house.ArnoldReinhold, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

What is it about spiteful landowners in Massachusetts? In 1908, Francis O'Reilly tried to persuade his neighbor to purchase his small parcel of land. When the neighbor declined, O’Reilly constructed an 8-foot-wide abode on the meager plot. The interior designer who now occupies the space has said that the building is like a three-dimensional billboard for her work.

9. The Freeport Spite House // Freeport, New York

John Randall, a developer, did not support his town's attempt to implement a grid system. To thwart the plan, he built a Victorian house on a triangular plot of land. Aerial views of this Long Island town show that the streets had to loop around the large plot, destroying their symmetry.

10. The Plum Island Spite House // Plum Island, Massachusetts

The lonely Plum Island Spite House, without a neighbor in sight.Lee Wright, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Despite this house’s pink hue, its past is far from rosy. Local lore says that in 1925, a woman agreed to divorce her husband on one condition: He had to build her a replica of the home they shared. The man agreed, but rather than kindly complying with her wish, he built the house atop a distant salt marsh, where she wouldn’t even have access to fresh running water.

Take Advantage of Amazon's Early Black Friday Deals on Tech, Kitchen Appliances, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Even though Black Friday is still a few days away, Amazon is offering early deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.

Kitchen

Instant Pot/Amazon

- Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-115 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker; $90 (save $40) 

- Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Sauteuse 3.5 Quarts; $180 (save $120)

- KitchenAid KSMSFTA Sifter with Scale Attachment; $95 (save $75) 

- Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker; $60 (save $20)

- Cuisinart Bread Maker; $88 (save $97)

- Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker; $139 (save $60)

- Aicook Juicer Machine; $35 (save $15)

- JoyJolt Double Wall Insulated Espresso Mugs - Set of Two; $14 (save $10) 

- Longzon Silicone Stretch Lids - Set of 14; $13 (save $14)

HadinEEon Milk Frother; $37 (save $33)

Home Appliances

Roomba/Amazon

- iRobot Roomba 675 Robot Vacuum with Wi-Fi Connectivity; $179 (save $101)

- Fairywill Electric Toothbrush with Four Brush Heads; $19 (save $9)

- ASAKUKI 500ml Premium Essential Oil Diffuser; $22 (save $4)

- Facebook Portal Smart Video Calling 10 inch Touch Screen Display with Alexa; $129 (save $50)

- Bissell air320 Smart Air Purifier with HEPA and Carbon Filters; $280 (save $50)

Oscillating Quiet Cooling Fan Tower; $59 (save $31) 

TaoTronics PTC 1500W Fast Quiet Heating Ceramic Tower; $55 (save $10)

Vitamix 068051 FoodCycler 2 Liter Capacity; $300 (save $100)

AmazonBasics 8-Sheet Home Office Shredder; $33 (save $7)

Ring Video Doorbell; $70 (save $30) 

Video games

Nintendo

- Legend of Zelda Link's Awakening for Nintendo Switch; $40 (save $20)

- Marvel's Spider-Man: Game of The Year Edition for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $20)

- Marvel's Avengers; $27 (save $33)

- Minecraft Dungeons Hero Edition for Nintendo Switch; $20 (save $10)

- The Last of Us Part II for PlayStation 4; $30 (save $30)

- LEGO Harry Potter: Collection; $15 (save $15)

- Ghost of Tsushima; $40 (save $20)

BioShock: The Collection; $20 (save $30)

The Sims 4; $20 (save $20)

God of War for PlayStation 4; $10 (save $10)

Days Gone for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $6)

Luigi's Mansion 3 for Nintendo Switch; $40 (save $20)

Computers and tablets

Microsoft/Amazon

- Apple MacBook Air 13 inches with 256 GB; $899 (save $100)

- New Apple MacBook Pro 16 inches with 512 GB; $2149 (save $250) 

- Samsung Chromebook 4 Chrome OS 11.6 inches with 32 GB; $210 (save $20) 

- Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 with 13.5 inch Touch-Screen; $1200 (save $400)

- Lenovo ThinkPad T490 Laptop; $889 (save $111)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet (64GB); $120 (save $70)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition Tablet (32 GB); $130 (save $70)

- Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8 inches with 32 GB; $100 (save $50)

Apple iPad Mini (64 GB); $379 (save $20)

- Apple iMac 27 inches with 256 GB; $1649 (save $150)

- Vankyo MatrixPad S2 Tablet; $120 (save $10)

Tech, gadgets, and TVs

Apple/Amazon

- Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS; $179 (save $20) 

- SAMSUNG 75-inch Class Crystal 4K Smart TV; $998 (save $200)

- Apple AirPods Pro; $199 (save $50)

- Nixplay 2K Smart Digital Picture Frame 9.7 Inch Silver; $238 (save $92)

- All-New Amazon Echo Dot with Clock and Alexa (4th Gen); $39 (save $21)

- MACTREM LED Ring Light 6" with Tripod Stand; $16 (save $3)

- Anker Soundcore Upgraded Bluetooth Speaker; $22 (save $8)

- Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote; $28 (save $12)

Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera with EF-M 15-45mm Lens; $549 (save $100)

DR. J Professional HI-04 Mini Projector; $93 (save $37)

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13 Unbelievable Unfinished Projects

The National Monument of Scotland.
The National Monument of Scotland.

Sometimes, your 10-hour movie adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel Dune—set to star Mick Jagger, Salvador Dalí, and Orson Welles—simply never ends up panning out (looking at you, Alejandro Jodorowsky).

For every building built, painting painted, and film filmed, there are countless others that fall by the wayside for some reason or another. On this episode of The List Show, Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy has scoured the margins of history to tell the most fascinating stories of projects left unfinished. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Grim Reaper is often to blame; Jane Austen gave up on Sanditon not long before her death, and Franklin D. Roosevelt passed away the same day Elizabeth Shoumatoff was trying to paint his portrait. Other projects proved too expensive to finish—like Cincinnati’s subway system.

So what happens to all the novels with no endings and tunnels with no trains? Press play below to find out, and explore other episodes of The List Show on the Mental Floss YouTube channel.