Spite Houses

When the city of Alameda, Calif., took a strip of his property to widen the street, the builder of this spite house struck back at a neighbor who favored the wider street by erecting a 10x50-foot two-story home on the remaining scrap of land.

The 8-foot-wide O’Reilly Spite House in West Cambridge, Mass., memorializes the abutting landowner’s refusal to offer a reasonable price for the land on which it sits.

This spite house in Seattle’s Montlake neighborhood is a compact 15 feet wide across the front, but tapers to less than 5 feet wide at the back, as shown here (yellow house at far left). Enter the geographical coordinates 47°38'19"N, 122°18'5.5"W into the Google Earth search box to see its peculiar wedge-shaped outline from above.

The history of the Skinny House in Boston’s North End is sketchy, but it’s said to have been the builder’s way of putting the squeeze on his brother, who had previously built a much larger house on the back portion of the same jointly-owned lot.

Although modern building codes make it difficult to built a true spite house today, its successor—the spite paint job—is alive and well. This garish historic structure in Chatham, Mass., was inspired by the town’s refusal to allow the owner to make some requested structural changes to the building.

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