Have you ever heard of a spite house? If not, you shouldn’t be ashamed nor surprised. After all, these houses built to annoy aren’t that common in America. Furthermore, some of the most famous like the Richardson House, have already been demolished. On the other hand, although primarily unusual in shape or size, some of these odd-looking homes are now quite valuable. The following are 10 of the best-known spite houses in America that are still in existence.
What is a Spite House?
Just as the term suggests, a spite house is a house built to annoy or offend a neighbor or “any party with land stakes”. In other words, it’s a house made to antagonize someone or some entity due to a disagreement. For instance, you may find that some spite houses were built to obstruct a neighbor’s view while others were built as a divorce settlement. Other examples are of property disagreements with local governments, blocking an alleyway or blocking light to another home. In other cases, these houses are also known as skinny houses or pie houses and look exactly how it sounds.
What is the Oldest Spite House in America?
In America, these types of quirky houses date to the 18th century. The oldest known still standing in America is likely the Old Spite House in Marblehead, Massachusetts. However, some other examples across the world date back several centuries more. Other forms of spite are spite monuments and most commonly, spite fences.
Many of these following houses are privately owned. With this in mind, if you visit any of these, please be mindful of its occupant’s privacy. That’s not to mention the neighborhood in which these homes can be found. The last location on this list is the Pink House and can only be viewed from the road, since it’s on private federal property.
Alameda Spite House
2528 Crist St.
Alameda, CA 94501
According to a handful of sources, this skinny house was built to annoy the city and a neighbor. In the early 1900s, Charles Froling owned land at the corner of Crist Street and Broadway. These same sources claim the City of Alameda (near Oakland) took a portion of Froling’s property for a street expansion. So in an effort to annoy the city and neighbors, Froling built this 10 foot wide home in 1908 in the remaining portion of his property. Although just 10 feet wide, 20 feet tall and 54 feet long, it has nearly 1150 square feet of space.
Kent Road and Riverview Road
New Milford, CT 06755
You shouldn’t be surprised to learn that this five-tiered house is also known as the Wedding Cake House. That’s because it does resemble a wedding cake, with five tiers yet without the figurines on top. Prior to its completion, owner Jan Pol and his wife had their pregnant adopted daughter taken away by the child welfare department. What’s more, the Pols were never able to retain custody of their adopted daughter. Today, the Cake House has no occupants, but you might be able to take of tour of its interior. Either way, you can find this pyramid-like building in the Gaylordsville neighborhood of New Milford.
Deerfield Pie House
970 Chestnut St.
Deerfield, IL 60015
If you see the Pie House up front, it looks like a very nice suburban home outside of Chicago. However, if you walk behind it, it may resemble an artificial home from a Hollywood studio backlot. In reality, this home with the shape of a pie is only three feet wide and built in 2003 to fit a narrow lot. While this home was not originally built with spite, its neighbors were certainly not happy. Today, the Pie House is quite famous, having been seen on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, NBC Chicago and even Tik Tok. In case you hope to visit, it’s not far from the Deerfield Metra station north of downtown Chicago.
Hollensbury Spite House
423 Queen St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
Occupying a narrow space in Old Town Alexandria, the Hollensbury House is frequently known as America’s skinniest. That’s because this historic home measures just 7 feet 6 inches wide. In fact, it’s so narrow that many visitors with extended arms will pose in front to reach either end. Prior to its completion in 1830, this was an alley next to the home of John Hollensbury. Not only did the alley attract loiterers but also horse-drawn wagons that damaged his adjoining brick walls. In light of this, Hollensbury bought the alley and built it as an extension to his home. In the years since, the Hollensbury House has been under private ownership.
145 Lena Ave.
Freeport, NY 11520
This normal looking home is far from being a skinny house. On the other hand, the Miracle House fits the same category of all these others. In this case, the Miracle House was built in just one day to annoy a competitor in a real estate development race. Despite largely being built in just a single day, it’s a two-story home with seven bedrooms and 2.5 baths. In the event you wish to see the Miracle House, it’s the Freeport neighborhood of Hempstead, on Long Island. From Manhattan, you can take a Long Island Railroad route to the village of Freeport.
Montlake Spite House
2022 24th Ave. E
Seattle, WA 98112
Like the Deerfield Pie House, looks can certainly be deceiving at this unusual Seattle home. Resembling a cheese or pie wedge or simply a piece of cheesecake, this oddity has not one, but three explanations. However, all three explanations are due to some sort of land dispute between one or more neighbors. As a result, you have an 860 square foot two-story home built in 1925 with two bedrooms and 1.75 bedrooms. What’s more, by viewing it on the side, you’ll notice that it’s just 15 feet and its widest and under 6 feet at its narrowest. Despite its tiny size, the home has a current value of over $600,000. As for public transportation options, you can take either bus routes 43 or 48 from the heart of Seattle.
Now in uses as one of Boston’s smallest commercial spaces, the O’Reilly Spite house is a perfect example of revenge. In a bit more detail, this unusual building was built by Francis O’Reilly after his neighbor refused to purchase his small plot of land. For that reason, this building built in 1908 is just 308 square feet and just 8 feet and its widest. Furthermore, at its backside, it’s much narrower at a mere 4 feet. Also known as the Cambridge Spite House, it’s within minutes of the Public Library, with public bus access a block away.
44 Hull St.
Boston, MA 02113
Set in the oldest neighborhood of Boston, you shouldn’t underestimate the value of the Skinny House. After all, it wasn’t long ago that this historic home sold for $1.25 million or €1.17 million. You can trace the two-story building to what sources say was a property dispute between two brothers sometime after the Civil War. When one of the two brothers came back from service, he discovered that the other brother built a large home occupying most of the property. In an act of revenge, the returning soldier built a tiny home to block the view from the larger home. In the event you visit, it’s in the North End neighborhood and covers 1,000 square feet with two bedrooms.
Thomas McCobb House
Rockport, ME 04856
Built in 1806, the Thomas McCobb House was the result of a family feud. The son of an Irish immigrant, Thomas McCobb was away at sea when his father died. Before he made it back home, his father’s will was altered to include his stepmother’s son. Upon returning home, he discovered that his stepbrother inherited the original home in Phippsburg. For this reason, Thomas built his own Federal-style home to overshadow the older home. After years of disrepair, the home was moved by barge to its present location at Deadman Point.
112 W. Church St.
Frederick, MD 21701
With 9,200 square feet and 7 bedrooms and baths, this isn’t your ordinary spite house. However, you may be wondering, why would someone want to build such a house in a land dispute. That credit goes to Dr. John Tyler, a prominent ophthalmologist, who is best known as one of the earliest to perform cataract surgery. According to sources, Dr. Tyler learned that the city was planning on extending a street that would pass right by his home. In order to prevent this from happening, he began building a second home to block the construction. Recent records show that this enormous home was serving as a bed and breakfast. At this time, it is not clear whether it is in current use as a b&b or other business.
The Pink House
60 Plum Island Turnpike
Newbury, MA 01951
Despite being a frequent entry amongst America’s spite houses, the Pink House may not be exactly what has been claimed. According to some sources, the Pink House was built as part of a divorce settlement. In general, this 1925 home on Plum Island was built as an identical home that a couple once shared. However, the wife allegedly did not specify the exact location to build it. In response, the husband built the home yet on a remote section of the island. However, Support the Pink House has done extensive research on the history of this unoccupied house. Their findings determined there is no evidence that this ever occurred. Now under the ownership of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, it’s closed to the public.
About The Author
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who served as the National Travel Writer for CBS from 2012-2019. More than 900 of his stories still appear in syndication across 23 CBS websites, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. During his peak years with CBS, Randy had a reported digital audience reach of 489 million and 5.5 million monthly visitors. Additionally, his stories have appeared in the Daily Meal, CBS News, CBS Radio, Engadget, NBC.com, NJ.com and Radio.com. He earned a Media Fellowship from Stanford University in 2012.