What’s not to love about a building called a “spite house?” In an essay in the New York Times, writer Kate Bolick discusses her dream of owning the Plum Island Pink House, a forlorn, decaying structure in Newbury, Massachusetts set in the middle of a salt marsh. The romantic, reclusive home stands alone for a reason; built by a recently divorced husband for his ex-wife as a condition of their separation, it’s an exact duplicate of their shared home, just uncomfortably moored in the middle of remote wetlands and constructed without any running fresh water. The square loner is part of a small but ignoble tradition of spite houses, buildings created for malice instead of comfort meant to irritate or enrage neighbors, or occasionally piss off anyone unfortunate enough to be dwelling inside. Normally built to block a neighbor’s light or access, they can be found as early at the 18th century. Here are some examples of homes or apartment that were built, or painted, out of anger.
Given the amount of work it can take to construct a home, these people must have had some serious spite. But, how exactly the spite translated into the form of a home took on some different patterns (based on the examples offered by Curbed): using particular pieces of land in unique ways (particularly small lots), exterior decorating that transforms what might be a normal home into what the neighbors would consider an eyesore, and then homes with specific architectural features (such as being overly large or emphasizing particular elements).
Two quick things I would want to know in these cases:
- Did building the spite house pay off? In other words, did constructing the home as a symbol help the aggrieved person feel better?
- How does the quality or longevity of these homes compare to typical residences? If constructed in haste or if more concerned about spite than construction, perhaps they wouldn’t stand the test of time.