While reporting this week’s column about Clarendon’s “Skinny House,” one of City Paper’s resident Northern Virginians informed me about “Spite Houses,” tiny slab-like houses wedged in between other properties and supposedly built out of spite.
A few people have referred to the Skinny House as a modern day version of this tradition. I don’t think that’s quite the case. You could call the property a “Tough Luck Nimbys” House. But talking with builder Clarke Simpson, I never got the sense that he was erecting his home as a pure “screw-you” to the neighbors. Rather, he just wanted to make a buck off the land, as he always intended to do.
Nevertheless, perhaps the house will fit into local lore about other area Spite Houses. Here are some from the region and beyond.
This Alexandria Spite House is situated close to the intersection of Queen Street and N. Asaph Street. “It’s called the Spite House by some because John Hollensbury, the owner of one of the adjacent houses, built it in 1830 to keep horse-drawn wagons and loiterers out of his alley,” according to a February 2008 New York Times article. The house is 7 feet wide, about 25 feet deep and 325 square feet in two stories, the same piece states.
This 11-foot-wide Georgetown home (located at 1239 30th St. N.W.) may or may not be a Spite House. The Washington Post interviewed the homeowner a few years back. “[He] said he heard it was a spite house, ‘though [he’d] never been able to verify it.'”
This home is located at 44 Hull Street in Boston. Legend has it the property’s builder “erected it to shut off air and light from the home of a hostile neighbor with whom he had a dispute,” according to the Boston Globe, which also reported: “At its widest point on Hull Street, the house spans 10.4 feet. In the rear, it tapers to 9.25 feet on the outside, while the interior rear walls are a mere 8.4 feet wide.”
Another New England Spite House, this 308-square-foot Cambridge home is eight feet wide “at its fattest,” and “squeezes down to four feet in the rear,”according to the Boston Globe.