Houses built out of Spite
About a century ago, a Bay Area man named Charles Froling was just learning that he wouldn’t be able to build his dream house. An inheritance had gifted him a sizable chunk of land, but municipal elders in the City of Alameda had decided to appropriate most of it to extend a street. So Froling sadly rolled up his blueprints and murmured, “Ah well, that’s life.”
No, of course he didn’t do that. Having a character made from half righteous indignation and half pickle juice, the frustrated property owner took what little land he had left and erected a stilted, utterly ridiculous abode. The house measured 54 feet long but only 10 feet wide, as if a tornado had blown away two-thirds of the original structure. Today, the minihabitat enjoys moderate local fame and amazingly, with a property value of about $350,000, is lived in.
The shrunken wonder in Alameda is a bizarre sight, but it’s not quite unique: There are a handful of so-called “spite houses” enlivening the streets of America. Thrown up by cranks and malcontents, these structures take many forms but share a common function: To punish the neighbors by blocking their view, blacking out their sunlight, or making their life a little more hellish in some other nefarious way. Many were constructed in the days when building codes were lax, and so their underlying contempt and animosity has been grandfathered into the modern landscape.
Is it wrong that I’m kind of in love with the idea of spite houses? because I definitely am.