Ever noticed a house that looked just a little too tall, small or close to its neighbor? You may have just spotted a spite house.
Built specifically to annoy or upset others, the spite houses that dot the U.S. are lasting monuments to everything from family feuds to zoning disagreements.
Spite houses are not built to be practical. Rather, the homes were designed for a range of purposes from warding away loiterers to making a neighbor’s existence miserable.
Here are 9 of the most bitter houses ever constructed in the U.S.
The 10-foot-wide 1905 residence known as the Alameda Spite House was supposed to be a mansion.
Landowner Charles Froling dreamed of building a grand home on his sizable lot in Alameda. Before he could get started on his dream house, the city seized the majority of the homeowner’s land to build a street, according to Atlas Obscura.
Undeterred, Froling built the only house he could: one that squeezed 1,135 square feet of living space onto the small patch of land that remained.
The boxy home built right against the road at 2528 Christ Street compromised on space but not vision. The home has a jettied second floor, a pitched roof and green siding with purple accents.
To what lengths would you go to keep those darn kids off your property? For John Hollensbury, the answer was 7 by 25 feet, the measurements of the spite house he constructed in the 1800s.
Hollensbury lived on Queen Street next to an open alleyway. Fed up with loiterers and horse-drawn wagons cutting past his home, Hollensbury built a house to keep passerby out of his alley once and for all.
The house’s size is not its only unusual characteristic. According to The New York Times, scrapes from wagon wheels can be seen on the home’s living room walls, which were once the sides of the alley.
The bright blue building has not been on the market in some time. Its longtime owner uses the two-story landmark as a pied-a-terre.
According to Boston legend, when an unnamed soldier came back from the Civil War to find that his brother had snatched the majority of their late father’s land, he didn’t get mad. He got narrow.
The soldier is said to have built a 1,166-square-foot home in the 449-square-foot lot that remained of his property. Now known as “The Skinny House,” the four-floor home at 44 Hull Street measures just over 10 feet at its widest point.
Why go through all that trouble to build such an inconvenient house? According to legend, the building accomplished one passive act of hostility: the slender home was just tall enough for the original owner to block the sun from his brother’s yard, Boston Magazine reported.
Despite its small size, the home has become a landmark in Boston. The Skinny House sold for $900,000 in 2017.
Joe Mabel—Wikimedia Commons
Long Island real estate developer John Randall was on the losing end of a battle over land in Freeport when he hatched a plan. The town wanted to build Freeport’s streets in a grid, a choice that Randall said would reduce his land, according to a Newsday article.
Randall acted fast: so fast, in fact, that the home is locally known as “The Miracle House.” To impede the grid’s construction, Randall built a seven-bedroom home on a triangle-shaped lot in a 24-hour period.
The dispute over streets ended long ago, but the house still stands over one century later. The home sold in 2015 for $355,000.
Arnold Reinhold—Wikimedia Commons
At first glance, the 308-square-foot building on the corner of Concord Street in Cambridge looks like it might be a tool shed for the much larger house next door. In actuality, the tiny structure was built in the early 1900s to annoy the neighbors, according to Boston Magazine.
Before it was a building, legend says the tiny parcel on the corner of Appleton and Concord was owned by Francis O’Reilly. With a house abutting his unused land to the east, O’Reilly tried to sell the parcel to his neighbor.
When the neighbor refused to buy it, O’Reilly built the awkward eight-foot wide property, which is today occupied by an interior design company.
Dr. John Tyler did not want to be disturbed. It was the early 1800s, and Tyler was upset when city planners plotted a road extension directly through his land.
In an effort to block the street, Tyler discovered a legal loophole that said a road could not be constructed if a substantial building was placed in its path, according to the Los Angeles Times. Construction on the house began almost immediately afterward.
Tyler never lived in the building, which was completed in 1814, renting it out instead.
Today, the three-story mansion still stands at the end of Record Street — blocking what would have been the extension. In recent years, the house has been used as a bed and breakfast known as Tyler’s-Spite House.
Cervin Robinson/Historic America—Library of Congress
The towering 1806 mansion is undeniably opulent, which is the exact impression Thomas McCobb wanted to make — and rub in his extended family’s face.
McCobb’s story begins with his father, James McCobb. According to the National Register of Historic Places, James — who married three times and fathered 15 children — owned two properties in Phippsburg, Me.: a log cabin and a beautiful mansion.
Thomas, heir to his father’s fortune, went to sea shortly after his father’s death only to return and find that his stepbrother was now the owner of the sprawling mansion. Not one to take the loss of his home lightly, McCobb plotted a grand mansion of his own mere feet away from that of his stepbrother.
Years later, the home was purchased and moved from its original location in Phippsburg to its current address in Rockport.
Joe Mabel—Wikimedia Commons
One of Washington State’s most unusual houses measures a measly 4.5 feet across at its thinnest point. The slice of a 1925 Spanish Revival residence at 2022 24th Ave E in Seattle is commonly known as the “Pie House,” owing to its unusual triangular shape.
While the origin of the Pie House has been lost to time, its legacy is inextricably linked to ill will. Explanations for the unusual home range from a bitter divorce battle for land ownership to a real estate deal gone wrong.
According to Zillow, the property’s original owner offered the land to the couple next door for a higher price than the neighbors were willing to pay. When the neighbors made a much lower counter offer, the angry property owner built the triangular home and, as a final act of malevolence, painted the back wall black.
The home has been on and off the market for years. It last sold in July 2016 for $500,000.
What do you do when the newest grand Victorian on your street blocks your million-dollar view? Ask Jason Downer, a judge who lived in Milwaukee in the middle of the 1800s, and he might advise building a second mansion out of malice.
The year Downer moved into the ornate mansion that still stands on Prospect Avenue today, a new neighbor demolished a small frame next door. The neighbor used the land to build a three-story townhouse that blocked Downer’s view of a nearby fountain, Urban Milwalkee reports.
In retaliation for the loss of his favorite view, Downer got to work on a second building at the very edge of his property. The resulting spite house at 1223 N. Prospect Avenue blocks the townhouse’s sunlight and is so close to the building it touches. More than a century later, the unusual home is now an office building.