Spite House

hollensbury spite house

A spite house is a building constructed or modified to irritate neighbors 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. 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. This is partially attributable to the fact that modern building codes often prevent the construction of houses likely to impinge on neighbors’ views or privacy.

Probably the most famous spite house was the Richardson Spite House in New York City at Lexington Avenue and 82nd Street. Built in 1882 and demolished in 1915, it was four stories tall, 104 feet (31.7 m) long, and only five feet (1.5 m) wide. Joseph Richardson, the owner of the plot of the same dimensions, built it after the owner of the adjacent plot, Hyman Sarner, unsuccessfully tried to purchase the land. Sarner considered the plot useless by itself and offered only $1000; Richardson demanded $5000. After the deal fell through, Richardson had an apartment building constructed on his land. It was a functional (albeit impractical) apartment building with eight suites, each consisting of three rooms and a bath.

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