Whoever came up with the economic law that people always make rational decisions clearly never saw a spite house. (Someone actually won a Nobel for disproving that law.) A spite house is a structure that’s built for the sole purpose of annoying someone, usually by blocking a view or access. As a phenomenon, the spite house dates back to at least the early 18th century, when the youngest of three brothers in Massachusetts, angry about his share of the inheritance, built a tiny wedge-shaped house in front of the family mansion, just to ruin their view. It didn’t get him into the will, but I bet it made him feel better. Spite houses have been around for centuries and can be found in every part of the world, thus proving that if there’s a universal sentiment, it’s probably not love – it’s probably spite.
THE STRIPED HOUSE
This eye-searingly ugly house is located in the post London neighborhood of Kensington, and recently made the news when a judge overturned a court order that would’ve forced the owner to repaint. The townhouse was painted in this ridiculous pattern in 2015, after neighbors blocked the owner’s plans to demolish the house and build a new one. Her response? To clown them by clowning herself. (Literally.) The neighbors complained, local authorities ordered her to repaint, she countersued, and the high court ruled in her favor. The Clown House might be ugly, but unfortunately for her neighbors, it’s not criminally ugly. (Bonus spite: notice that the last stripe was left purposely unfinished, to further irritate the neighbors.)
THE DC HOLDOUT
We have to mention the local champ. Though perhaps not technically a spite house, since it wasn’t built specifically to piss people off, the nearly decade-long holdout by the owner was definitely motivated by plenty of spite. (And greed.) Austin Spriggs, the owner of the house at 425 Massachusetts Avenue, was offered millions for his house in the early days of the District boom, as glass-and-steel towers went up all around him, but Spriggs decided to hold out for more. I can’t pretend I wouldn’t have advised him to hold out; aren’t prices skyrocketing? But somehow the strategy backfired, and the house ended up in foreclosure. Eventually, Spriggs put the house up for a measly $1.5 million, and it ended up selling for less than $800K. I guess when a developer shows up with a briefcase full of $3 million, sometimes you should just take the money and sign.
THE SEATTLE WEDGE
This infamous Seattle spite house is not only insanely narrow, but also triangular, so that at its tapering end the house is only 55 inches wide. It’s basically three-quarters of a mobile home, maybe less. Locals have a few different explanations about how this house came to be, most of them involving ugly divorces, but the one that’s become the most widely accepted is that it all began when the previous owner of the house next door tried to buy the tiny triangular plot of land the spite house is built on. Their initial offer was so insultingly low, the owner of the plot not only didn’t sell, they built this house just to block the other house’s view, even going so far as to paint the facing wall black. The owner of the house next door promptly moved, which means the spite builder won. I tip my hat to you, spite builder. Please don’t build a house six inches from my window.
The real punchline? It was on the market recently – for over half a million dollars.
THE ALEXANDRIA SPITE HOUSE
Located in Old Town, this well-known spite house is only 7 feet wide, and has 325 square feet of space. It’s also not technically a house; the interior brick walls are the exterior walls of each adjacent house. That’s because it used to be an alley. So many horse-drawn carriages and loiterers hung out in the alley that the guy who lived next door got fed up, bought the tiny sliver of land, and built this house just to keep the noise down. This is totally something my dad would do. He’d buy the street he lives on, just so he could bar teenagers blasting “that dirty rock and roll music” from their car windows. This house is probably the nicest one on this list, but don’t get your hopes up. The present owners, who bought the house for only $135,000 back in 1990, sound pretty enamored with their tiny little spite house.