What Is a Spite House?

Updated: Jan. 23, 2024

We've all had bad neighbors, but were they really bad enough to drive you to build a spite house?

Have you ever seen an old, impossibly proportioned house? Or one so oddly placed you think there can’t possibly be any logic to how or why it was built? If so, you may have seen a spite house.

What is a spite house?

In simple terms, a spite house is one built specifically to inconvenience and irritate the other homeowners in the vicinity. This could be accomplished by obstructing a nice view, blocking the light or cutting off a pathway or shortcut.

These buildings were not always primary residences. In those built purely for spite, the standard comforts of a home could be sacrificed to make the structure as aggravating as possible.

And houses aren’t the only things people have built to irritate neighbors. If there was enough land available, one might start a spite farm. Or, if resources were scarce, they might opt for a spite wall or fence instead. Today, with stricter building codes, spite fences are the most likely to be built.

Why would you build one?

You may have had annoying neighbors in the past, but it’s unlikely you hated them enough to build a home to get back at them. However, in centuries past, when building codes were much different, building a spite house was a viable option if you were angry enough and had the resources available.

Where to see spite houses

Once in a while, a spite house will be put up for sale. So if you care more about owning an unusual old home than a functional one, keep an eye out. Be aware that old homes often come with unique and expensive problems.

If you’re more interested in seeing these homes than owning them, there are several famous spite houses here in the U.S. Three of the most well-known examples are the Skinny House in Boston, the Miracle House in Freeport, New York, and the Old Spite House in Marblehead, Massachusetts.

The Family Handyman
Originally Published on The Family Handyman