Equal parts righteous indignation and pickle juice
July 17, 2014 9:13 PM   Subscribe

And there's Toronto's Little House.

Toronto has lots of narrow townhouses built on 12 foot wide lots; the main problem is arranging the furniture in the living room.
posted by jrochest at 9:37 PM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Milwaukee's got one too!
posted by augustimagination at 9:46 PM on July 17, 2014

Oh, wow this is fascinating. Unlike the Kleine Trippenhuis, or Oude Hoogstraat 22 which I was told was built that way because taxes on buildings was on their width, not depth, and so the Dutch skinny house-trend was born. A story that may or may not be as fake as the story of "the lucky servant".
posted by dabitch at 9:54 PM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

More spite house pieces.
posted by gingerest at 10:16 PM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's not really a spite house, nor even a tiny house, but one of our rental properties has a driveway about 20' wide that used to hold an entire freestanding house. With all the interest in tiny houses today I wish I'd gotten a better look at it once upon a time; it was razed before we owned its neighbor.
posted by dhartung at 11:14 PM on July 17, 2014

Spite vents.
posted by eye of newt at 11:14 PM on July 17, 2014 [6 favorites]

As someone with a longstanding love of tiny houses, I was not prepared for the wave of claustrophobia that this induced. Very nice post all the same.
posted by Hermione Granger at 11:22 PM on July 17, 2014

Searching around, I found that there is another concept: the nail house--a house the owner refuses to sell, and stands to spite the builders.

Apparently there are a lot of these in China.
posted by eye of newt at 11:23 PM on July 17, 2014 [6 favorites]

The article is right, the Alexandria one is very popular among the tourists. It is admittedly quite cute.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:36 AM on July 18, 2014

From eye of newt's link, this one is just perfect.
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:51 AM on July 18, 2014

Party 88.
posted by Pudhoho at 2:19 AM on July 18, 2014

This is a thing? My house is 10 feet wide, internally. So are all the other 70 on my street. It's notorious in my town for being a small street, but for at least half a mile around the average house width is 11.5 feet. That must cover several thousand houses easily - and there are a couple more neighbourhoods like it in town and more in the next town over. It's what happens when we still live in repurposed Victorian workers houses.
posted by cromagnon at 3:21 AM on July 18, 2014

I live not terribly far from the Cambridge spite house in gingerest's first link. It's about the size of my mom's walk-in closet. Probably great publicity for the designer who works there, though I wonder where she goes when she has to use the bathroom.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:39 AM on July 18, 2014

I love houses and I love spite, yay. My apartment is pretty wide, but due to some crazy design the living room/kitchen is like 25 feet long and only about 7 feet wide. It drives my wife nuts, but I like the fact that I can change the tv channel with my toes when the remote is out of reach.
posted by Literaryhero at 4:42 AM on July 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

More pictures of the Cambridge spite house – it really does look like a giant display case now.
posted by ignignokt at 5:36 AM on July 18, 2014

Searching around, I found that there is another concept: the nail house--a house the owner refuses to sell, and stands to spite the builders.

Apparently there are a lot of these in China.

Interesting. I wonder if there are legislative / procedural reasons why this happens more often in China. I guess in many countries, the developers would just throw more and more money at the recalcitrant occupant until they found the right price. Maybe there's a reason this can't happen in China?
posted by iotic at 5:38 AM on July 18, 2014

There's an awesome local story about a spite parcel (nothing built on it) off 13th St NW in DC. A friend of mine used to live in the pre-existing building in the middle here; while the building on the left was under construction, one family that had refused to sell their parcel would send someone to sit on a bucket every day and make sure workers didn't surreptitiously encroach on their land. According to my friend, this forced the builders to leave that alley between the old and new apartment buildings, without which his place would have been bathed in permanent shade.
posted by psoas at 5:49 AM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

For whatever reason the block I live on was originally platted into 20 and 25 foot wide lots. Almost all the houses were built across two of them, so they look like houses in any dense urban neighborhood, but a few of the lots ended up single, and 25 feet minus the setback to each side gives you a very skinny house of perhaps 15' width. Not in the same category as the spite houses or Victorian workers' housing, but unusually thin for the modern US. They are charming though and I could easily imagine living in one.

I've seen apartments and row houses that were very thin but also very deep, and the lack of side windows made them unpleasantly dark and airless in the middle rooms. I'd be fine living in something that was the width of a shipping container, but not if the only windows were at each end 50' apart.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:51 AM on July 18, 2014

I am capable of building a spite house.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:11 AM on July 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oh, we have one those near us. Triangle House makes us break into They Might Be Giants when we drive past it.
posted by jeribus at 6:42 AM on July 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Hmm. I like tiny homes. And I am full of spite at times...

posted by Kitteh at 7:04 AM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by OmieWise at 7:21 AM on July 18, 2014

wow, those Chinese nail houses really are fascinating. It really shows how we can work around people's ownership and still make things work (although i bet the neighbors can't stand it.)
posted by rebent at 7:40 AM on July 18, 2014

cromagnon: This is a thing? My house is 10 feet wide, internally. So are all the other 70 on my street.

If all the other houses around you are just like yours, you definitely don't live in a house specifically defined to piss someone else off, just a small one.

Unless you live in a spite neighborhood.
posted by inertia at 8:58 AM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Actually, come to think of it, I live on a fairly densely populated barrier island that's about half a mile wide at it's widest point, that has to be constantly built up and reinforced with more sand and earth to keep it from being washed away by the water and wind.

Maybe I live in a spite neighborhood. Ocean, you can't tell me where I can and can't live.
posted by inertia at 9:03 AM on July 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

I love these spiteful tiny houses!

I'm really surprised at the Chinese "nail" houses -- so many neighborhoods (hutongs) in Beijing got bulldozed to make the city purty for the Olympics; lots of residents were simply told to leave, some promised lovely new homes in the country, but whatevs, GET OUT.

Maybe because these nail houses/tombs are surrounded by "private" enterprise, and not government construction? who knows?
posted by allthinky at 9:28 AM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

gingerest: More spite house pieces.

#7 on that list is right around the corner from me! They've really done a disservice, though, with this:

What is it about spiteful landowners in Massachusetts? In 1908, Francis O'Reilly got angry when the owner of the adjacent parcel of land refused to buy his land for a good price—so he built a house measuring 8 feet wide. The interior designer who now occupies the space has said that the building is like a three-dimensional billboard for her work.

How do you tell that story without mentioning that the interior design shop is named Annie Hall?
posted by atbash at 10:36 AM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

This can't be complete without a reference to Edith Macefield's house in Seattle. She became a local legend as this story played out in the 90s.
posted by Sublimity at 3:47 PM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I lived in an old 8' single wide for a while. 8' is perfectly livable, 15' (about the size of an old double wide) is down right luxurious.
posted by Mitheral at 7:09 PM on July 18, 2014

The extreme examples of United States 'spite houses' seem many years old, whereas these Chinese buildings appear much newer. With all the notorious areas of Chinese society under state control, this public defiance appears out of character--maybe theres something about Chinese culture I don't know?

I can't imagine an owner of these ugly piles of bricks could afford to fight the civil authorities and construction companies in court. A confluence of oddly powerful property rights laws, Chinese cultural values and individual defiance? The highway examples are dumbfounding to my eyes!
posted by xtian at 7:03 AM on July 19, 2014

Well, xtian, there's a difference between a spite house and a nail house/holdout. The situation has emerged because of a recent urban renewal mentality in Chinese metropolitan planning which has required semi-rural communities of many years, with their naturalistic roadway and property line patterns, to be basically obliterated by massive developments, often on a grid or Western suburb and ring road pattern which is utterly incompatible with existing development.

As my understanding has it, xtian, China really doesn't have much in the way of Western-style property rights, nor a truly effective and open legal system, but they do have a massive bureaucracy and many-layered political system that a determined person can navigate. The aforementioned urban renewal has often taken massive (and likely corrupt) legal and political shortcuts, and these weaknesses can be exploited, especially by someone who has nothing else to do with their life, like a retiree.
posted by dhartung at 10:46 AM on July 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I was wondering the same thing about the 'nail houses'---the Chinese government has never been shy about declaring "We need this land, y'all gots ta go." So how did these holdouts survive. Thanks, dhartung!
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:21 AM on July 20, 2014

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