Spite Buildings: When Human Grudges Get Architectural

“Spite buildings” are constructions specifically intended to irritate or protest — our smallest human pettiness made manifest in brick and mortar. Because long-term occupation isn’t the primary purpose of these houses, they frequently sport strange and impractical structures. They can create obstructions — such as blocking out light or blocking access to neighboring buildings — or they can be flagrant symbols of defiance. The earliest such case was in 1716, when sailmaker Thomas Wood built a house in Marblehead, Mass., that became known as the Old Spite House. The 10-foot-wide house was just tall enough to block the view of two other houses on the street and was built because its owner was upset about his tiny share of his father’s estate and decided to spoil his older brother’s view. The Old Spite House is still standing and occupied. They say that home is where the heart is, but if that heart is filled with malice, home might just be a spite house.