Spite Houses

I had never heard of this before today:

A spite house is a building constructed or modified to irritate neighbours or other parties with land stakes. Spite houses often serve as obstructions, blocking out light or access to neighboring buildings, or as flamboyant symbols of defiance.[1][2] Because long-term occupation is at best a secondary consideration, spite houses frequently sport strange and impractical structures.

Spite houses are much rarer than spite fences.[1] This is partially attributable to the fact that modern building codes often prevent the construction of houses likely to impinge on neighbours’ views or privacy.

(via Boing Boing)


  1. I recognize in a rare situation, a building really may be built in some part out of spite, but in most cases I doubt it. There are people who want to build a house, however crappy, and exploit ever smaller tracts of land in crowded cities to do so.

    Why would anyone build a habitable house rather than a simple obstruction (call it “art.” Call it a “retaining wall.” Whatever.) if the person just meant to “spite” their neighbors?

    In short, I am guessing the term was given by those who felt spited, and not those purported to spite.

    1. Re: the house in the picture:

      The structure was apparently built as a “spite house” shortly after the American Civil War. According to local legend:

      …two brothers inherited land from their deceased father. While one brother was away serving in the military, the other built a large home, leaving the soldier only a shred of property that he felt certain was too tiny to build on. When the soldier returned, he found his inheritance depleted and built the narrow house to spite his brother by blocking the sunlight and ruining his view…

      If you click on C’s link to the wiki article on spite houses, you will see they really were built out of spite, and they aren’t always tiny houses to fill a small lot. Here is the flickr search on tags “spitehouse”.

      Here is another I remember reading about:

      The builder bought the land for two homes, but neighbors, wanting to preserve the historic feel of the area, blocked his bid to get a zoning variance. So he built the tallest, most modern home he could design for the space.

      I hope the blockquotes work; they didn’t last time I tried to use them.

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