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.
In 1830, John Hollensbury’s home in Alexandria, Virginia was one of two homes directly bordering an alleyway which received an annoying amount of horse-drawn wagon traffic and loiterers. To prevent people from using the alleyway, Hollensbury constructed a 7-foot (2.1 m) wide, 25-foot (7.6 m) deep, 325-square-foot (30.2 sq m), two-story home using the existing brick walls of the adjacent homes for the sides of the new home. The brick walls of the Hollensbury Spite House living room still have gouges from wagon-wheel hubs, and the house is still standing and occupied.
In 1814, Dr. John Tyler, an eminent ophthalmologist and the first American-born physician to perform a cataract operation, owned a parcel of land near the courthouse square in Frederick, Maryland. The city made plans to extend Record Street south through Tyler’s land to meet West Patrick Street (the street behind his house). In fighting the city, Tyler discovered a local law that prevented the building of a road if work was in progress on a substantial building in the path of a proposed road. To spite the city, Tyler immediately had workmen pour a building foundation, which was discovered by the road crews the next morning.
In the 1950s there were two miners that disliked each other very much. The first miner bought a lot in the downtown area of the city and built a lovely white house. Unfortunately for him, the second miner bought the lot right beside his and had his previously built red house relocated right beside his, so close it was mere inches from the first miner’s home.
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.
In 1874, two brothers in the North End of Boston, Massachusetts got into a dispute. Each had previously inherited land from their deceased father. While the second brother was away serving in the military, the first brother built a large home, leaving the soldier only a shred of property that the first brother felt certain was too tiny to build on.When the soldier returned, he found his inheritance depleted and built a wooden house at 44 Hull St. to spite his brother by blocking the sunlight and ruining his view. The outside of the house spans 10.4 feet (3.2 m) and tapers to 9.25 feet (2.82 m) in the rear. The house may only be entered via a small alley beside it. The Skinny House is still standing and occupied today. It stands near the top of Copp’s Hill, across the street from the historic Copp’s Hill Burying Ground and within sight of Old North Church, both official stops on Boston’s historic Freedom Trail.
In 1908, Francis O’Reilly owned an investment parcel of land in West Cambridge, Massachusetts and approached his abutting land neighbor to sell the land for a gain. After the neighbor refused to buy the land, O’Reilly built a 308-square-foot (28.6 m2) building, measuring 37 feet (11 m) long and only 8 feet (2.4 m) wide to spite the neighbor. The O’Reilly Spite House is still standing and is occupied by an interior decorating firm as of mid-2009
At the turn of the 20th century, the city of Alameda, California took a large portion of Charles Froling’s land to build a street. Froling had planned to build his dream house on the plot of land he received through inheritance. To spite the city and an unsympathetic neighbor, Froling built a house 10 feet (3.0 m) deep, 54 feet (16 m) long and 20 feet (6.1 m) high on the tiny strip of land left to him. The Alameda Spite House is still standing and occupied to this day.