A Spite House in Georgetown

Posted: February 17, 2014 in Buildings
Tags: , , ,

The spite house at 1239 30th Street N.W.

A spite house is a building constructed or modified to irritate someone else, usually neighbors.  Spite houses often serve as obstructions, blocking out light or access to neighboring buildings, or as flamboyant symbols of defiance.  On this ride, I went by one such house in the Georgetown neighborhood of D.C.   The Georgetown home (on the left) is located at 1239 30th Street N.W. (MAP).  It’s a shade under 11 feet wide, and was built between two larger houses.  When the couple who initially lived in the brick home to the right divorced in the late 1800’s, the wife moved out and built the spite house next door, purposefully blocking all the light and air of the original home’s north-facing windows in what has been reported to have been a purely spiteful gesture toward her ex-husband.  Also of note, the oval plaque in the middle of this house was a symbol representing an insurance company.  This and other symbols, known as fire marks, indicated to volunteer firemen that the house was insured, thus assuring them that they would be rewarded for saving that home.  History records a number of occasions in D.C. when firemen allowed uninsured houses to burn.

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