Spite Houses – Homes Built Just to Irritate Neighbors

(Last Updated On: June 1, 2018)

Spite Houses
Apparently, not everyone subscribes to the notion of loving thy neighbor. Throughout the United States, you can find numerous buildings constructed or modified with the specific purpose of annoying others. Known as spite houses, these dwellings can be irritating for various different reasons. Maybe they hinder what otherwise would be a nice view. Or perhaps they block out access to a neighboring building. Other times, they’re simply built a little too close to home, literally.

Whatever the reasons behind their construction, spite houses have a long history in the US. Here are a few of our favorites.

The Old Spite House, Marblehead, Massachusetts

Marblehead, Massachusetts, is the site of what is thought to be one of America’s original spite houses. Built in 1716, there are various theories about how the house came to be. What we do know is that the brothers who originally occupied the house did not get along. According to one of the prevailing legends, the younger brother was upset at the tiny share of his father’s estate that he received. Perhaps jealous of his older brother’s larger inheritance, he built the home to block his brother’s views of the sound out of spite.

Tyler Spite House, Frederick, Maryland

Sometimes, spite houses are built not to irritate a specific person, but an entire city. In 1814, Dr. John Tyler owned some land in Frederick, Maryland. He eventually discovered that the city had plans to extend a nearby road directly through his land to connect with another street. Tyler did his homework, and realized that if there was a building on that land, local law would prevent the road from being built. To get back at the city, Tyler began construction of a new home on the parcel.

Hollensbury Spite House, Alexandria, Virginia

In 1830, a resident of Alexandria, Virginia, named John Hollensbury became tired of the narrow alleyway by his house, which often attracted heavy traffic and loiterers. Finally fed up with all the racket, he built a two-story home right in the middle of it. He used the existing brick walls of the adjacent homes as sides. The house is still standing and occupied today.   

The Skinny House, Boston, Massachusetts

In another case of sibling rivalry, two brothers in North Boston got into a bitter dispute over land in 1874. Both brothers had inherited land from their father. While the second brother was away serving in the military, the other built a large home on nearly all the land. When the soldier came home, he built a home on the remaining land. It was small, but tall enough to block his brothers view. Today, it is known as the Skinny House.

The Alameda Spite House, Alameda, California

In the early 20th century, the city of Alameda, California, took a large chunk of land from Charles Froling to build a street. This obviously upset Froling, who had inherited the land and could no longer build the large dream house he had planned. To get back at the city, he utilized the tiny strip of land left to him to build a house anyway.

The Cambridge Spite House, West Cambridge, Massachusetts

Francis O’Reilly owned a parcel of land in West Cambridge in 1908. Hoping to sell the land for profit, he approached a neighbor about buying it. The neighbor refused. As a result, O’Reilly built a 308-square-foot building to spite the neighbor.

Montlake Spite House, Seattle, Washington

There are various origin stories for the Montlake Spite House in Seattle. According to one common legend, a neighbor approached the owner of the land to purchase the plot in 1925, but at an insultingly low price. Out of spite for the low offer, and to get back at the neighbor, the landowner build a tiny, pie-shaped house that blocked the neighbor’s open space.

Equality House, Topeka, Kansas

The Westboro Baptist Church is known for spewing vicious hate speech towards just about everyone, from the LGBT community to American soldiers. In 2013, a home across from the church was unveiled sporting rainbow colors, which is often associated with gay-pride. The house now serves as a resource center for anti-bullying initiatives.



About Mark Heald 225 Articles
Mark Heald is the Managing Editor of Sporcle.com. He enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, and bemoaning the fact the Sonics left Seattle.