Spite Houses, built to piss off the neighbors

Ape Lad sez, "I somehow ended up reading about spite houses (homes built specifically to piss off a neighbor) this evening, which I had never heard of before. Flickr has several when you search the tags, including the sad story behind this house in Connecticut."

Spite house (Thanks, Ape Lad)

(Image: File:AlamedaSpiteHouse.jpg, Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike, Wikimedia Commons)


  1. Yeah exactly. That’s how you know these people were dedicated. They weren’t going to settle for some temporary annoyance. No sir, they wanted revenge that would last.

    Man, what would you even do after that? I mean, after you’ve built the house, then what? You still have to live next door to these people, and saying “I’m sorry” isn’t really going to look all that sincere if you leave your giant freaking eyesore in everybody’s way. Which it looks like a lot of people do. How do these stories end?

    1. No. The Order of the Phoenix was in a normal (except for being hidden from muggles) house on a square in London.

      Something like this (those are obviously nice houses, other squares have cheaper ones).

  2. Genuinely a phenomenon I’d never heard of before. Is it any wonder our species is doomed?

    The Wikipedia entry seems to be a little light on non-American Spite Houses. Is this just a natural colonial Anglophone bias or is there more spite to go round in the good old US of A?

    1. At least in the UK, I think it would be difficult to build a ‘spite house’. We have a planning permission process for new buildings, which means that you have to announce what you’re building, and neighbours have the opportunity to object to it. In the case of a spite house, an objection would likely succeed.

  3. Why would you do this? “Ha ha, I’ll build my house right there, that will show them” – and then what? Live there? Everyday in front of people you hate that much? Or get “objectionable people” as renters who will quite possible stir up even more anger?
    What a waste of a lifetime.

  4. Further to Matt J’s reply at 7, even before the modern planning permission system came in in the UK there were often local regulations against overcrowding of houses. There’s also a long-standing English common-law provision of Ancient Lights that gives a remedy to a householder whose light has been cut off by a neighbour’s construction.

  5. I thought the only spite house was in Seattle. I’ve heard three different stories about it, two involving divorce. One is that the judge demanded that the ex-husband build a house for his ex-wife that would be no smaller than 860 square feet, he had it build to exactly that size but too narrow to be comfortably lived in. Another story was that the ex-husband got the house and the ex-wife got the front yard which she built a house on to annoy her ex-husband. The third story was that a neighbor made an insultingly low offer for a tiny slice of adjoining land the house was build to annoy the neighbor. I suppose, in theory, all three could be correct.

    Montlake Spite House, 2022 24th Ave E., Seattle, WA

  6. Living, as I have for some time now, in the greater Tokyo area, at first glance I wasn’t sure what was so spiteful about this house. The large majority of structures here could be deemed “spite” by that standard.

    And looking at the Flikr “spitehouses” link above, it seems there are only five or six, as half are of the same house.

    Kind of disappointing.

  7. Ha. I created the original Wikipedia article for spite houses a few years ago, with just the one in Manhattan as an example. Looks like a lot of people had others. Oh, spite!

  8. I do not understand.

    In my country you would not be allowed to build such house.
    There are LOTS and LOTS of regulations concerning building. And your neighbor can make an objection, and he can sue you if you diminish value if his land / house / whatever by building something.
    You have to get a permission from neighbor in order to build your house closer than [I think] four meters from his land.

  9. It wasn’t really a spite house, but when I was in college, my school bought all of the land in the surrounding area, but they could never buy this little bar in the middle of all of the property.

    The place was a hole-in-the-wall. It was an eye soar on the otherwise nice looking campus. It was finally sold to the school for $1,000,000.

  10. We have an entertaining zoning battle here in Georgia. In a million-dollar neighborhood, a man bought a 1.2 acre lot and wanted to have it rezoned from agricultural to residential use, and to split the lot for two houses. His neighbors thought splitting the lot would reduce the value of their own mansions, so they opposed it.

    So he said “you want agriculture? you got it!” and turned his lot into “The Swamp of Dunwoody”:


  11. Here in my town in middle America, we have plenty of bad architecture, but we too have to notify everyone within several hundred feet of the building site that we have plans, and that they can be seen at the local zoning commissioner’s office. We fought and won against someone who was planning to move a house that was too big to fit within the restrictions of a neighboring lot.

    I believe that most of my neighborhood would show up livid at city hall if a permit for something like the example above ever was ever proposed.

  12. People get so worked up about things! At first blush it might seem sad or petty, but it’s also interesting and makes you wonder what it must be like to be that angry and dedicated. I would probably just give up and move on – is my life better for it? I don’t know.

  13. Along the Jersey shore there are tons of mansions built on the graves of long-gone cottages. They’re 3+ stories with about as much proximity to one another so neighbors can’t get a view of the beach. Since most of those tiny towns are hungry for the taxes these McMansion beach houses generate they don’t enforce (or even bother amending) building codes.

  14. Wow, I used to ride the bus by the Alameda spite house every morning, I always wondered what the deal was with that place.. how interesting!

  15. Haha. I think these are wonderful and show how creatively people can use space for living quarters if they want. I don’t know but to me the best way for it to really be spiteful is to make it work. For instance especially those who were made paltry offers for their land. What better way to prove the land is valuable than to put a usable residence on it, rent it out, and profit. Most of these houses are actually nice anyway. I wouldn’t mind living in the skinny house in London, for instance… if I had the millions to do it.

  16. That was me who posted that Connecticut story a few years ago, neat!

    What I can add to the tale is that the state accused Jan Pol of being the father of the child (which anyone who knew anything about him would emphatically deny) in order to gain leverage to take his granddaughter away. He also built a giant wall of bottles and concrete near the “cake-house” which I think may’ve been more for his amusement than anything. Anyway you look at it, it’s a sad tale.

    If anyone would like more information, contact me at danwarning@yahoo.com

  17. Here in Hamilton Ontario Canada, a plaza/mall was built 20 years ago — but one homeowner wouldn’t sell. So they left him there — a single tiny house surrounded by a large parking lot.

    Eventually they did get the property, though, and tore it down. So -1 for character!

  18. Well the spite house is a little old place that
    I built to piss you off!

    The spite house bay-ay-beeee!

    The spite house baby!

    (sing to Love Shack)

  19. I regulary drive past a house in my town that has an historical society plaque on it that describes the house as being built to “block the view into town” of the house across the street which was owned by the builder’s brother.

  20. How about NON spite houses??

    Like the one in Australia where the guy who built his superhouse overlooking the local beach, built it in such a way that the locals could ‘check’ the surf in their cars from the top of the hill without his roof(flat and low for that reason) obstructing the view of the waves….
    Lets celebrate that!

  21. There was a guy in China called Yang Wu who stood out against a developer, it’s worth looking at what happened to him! This must be quite common as there is even a name for this situation, “Nail houses”.

  22. Down in sunny Laredo, Texas, Hilton was building a new hotel down by the Rio Grande. A family wouldn’t sell, so the Hilton built around them. Last time I saw it, the Hilton parking lot had a hovel in the middle.

    Under today’s law in many States, the City could have legally taken the family’s property for a private purpose. Maybe not in Texas, though. They take property rights very seriously down there.

  23. I never knew the real story behind the Alameda Spite House. By the way, it has a nice stained glass window over the door that says SPITE. Plus, I thought it was unique. Thanks for the info.

  24. we live by some jerk who was denied bldg. permit…did not meet zoning size…so he cut all the trees in half and painted them pink…he maintained it for a few years to piss off the neighbors who had objected…nice.

  25. This just can’t happen in New Zealand these days as we have a planning concent process. Before anything is built the builder needs to get the permission of every neighbour that will be able to see the new building and give their approval. Tough eh?

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