Spite house

A spite house is a building constructed or substantially modified to irritate neighbors or any party with land stakes. Spite houses may create obstructions, such as blocking out light or blocking access to neighboring buildings, or can be flagrant symbols of defiance. Because long-term occupation is at best a secondary consideration, spite houses frequently sport strange and impractical structures.

Spite houses are considerably 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, but mostly because fence construction is far cheaper than home construction. There are also similar structures known as spite wall or blinder wall.

In 1839 or 1840, Edgar Allan Poe, in his story "The Business Man", wrote the following passage in the voice of Peter Proffit, a man who imagines himself a legitimate businessman although the reader realizes that he is a con man. Proffit's attempted scam in this passage is to build a spite house and extort his neighbors to pay him to tear it down. (He calls this line of business 'the Eye-Sore trade'.)

"Whenever a rich old hunks, or prodigal heir, or bankrupt corporation, gets into the notion of putting up a palace, there is no such thing in the world as stopping either of them, and this every intelligent person knows. The fact in question is indeed the basis of the Eye-Sore trade. As soon, therefore, as a building project is fairly afoot by one of these parties, we merchants secure a nice corner of the lot in contemplation, or a prime little situation just adjoining or tight in front. This done, we wait until the palace is half-way up, and then we pay some tasty architect to run us up an ornamental mud hovel, right against it; or a Down-East or Dutch Pagoda, or a pig-sty, or an ingenious little bit of fancy work, either Esquimau, Kickapoo, or Hottentot. Of course, we can't afford to take these structures down under a bonus of five hundred per cent upon the prime cost of our lot and plaster. Can we? I ask the question. I ask it of business men. It would be irrational to suppose that we can."

The term spite house also relates to an old Southern United States custom of consigning an ostracized family member to a very small second house on the family land "where he was expected to live in solitude as punishment for having embarrassed his family".

The term was publicised on the BBC television series QI as one of their gag topics in the ninth episode of Series H in the extended version of the show (QI XL).

This page was last edited on 13 June 2018, at 05:21.
Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spite_house under CC BY-SA license.

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