Hey, I Know that Cambridge House!

I spent a sweaty summer in Cambridge, Massachusetts attending Harvard Summer School. It was a good experience from an academic standpoint, challenging and well-taught. There was no indoctrination that I remember, mainly because the study of intermediate physics is set. There is little social engineering in the hard sciences.

O'Reilly Spite House
O’Reilly Spite House

I used to ride the several miles down from Medford, through Somerville, to Cambridge on my bike. I memorized the houses along the path, even though I tried to take different paths for variety.

In an interesting turn, I was browsing this mental floss article on Spite Houses, or houses that were:

constructed to make someone mad. Sometimes they block a neighboring house’s view. Sometimes they’re built especially to thwart city planners or challenge city ordinances. In many cases, they’re an odd shape, or are built on a very small lot. Sometimes the houses are already in existence, and are altered to get revenge, like the Australia homeowner who painted his house pink and added a pig snout and a tail to protest a denied building permit.

And I recognized one. The O’Reilly Spite House. It sat right along my bike route. This may make me sound slightly batty, but I remember a particular smell this block had. The aroma of a cheap, gas station incense. I’ll bet it was from the lady who owns the place, Annie Hall, or an artist in the area:

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

And for the Bostonians amongst you, a virtual satellite map showing the neighborhood.

4 thoughts on “Hey, I Know that Cambridge House!”

  1. Modern day building reg’s over here would not allow such properties to be built in such a way, without the consent of the local populace, especially neighbours. However; I do love ‘olde’ misshapen, uneven properties that appear to be out of balance.

    Whitby harbour for instance (East Yorkshire coast).

    Staithes… East Yorkshire coast.

    Mousehole, Cornwall. South West, UK.

    And Clovelly, Devon. South West coast, UK (where cars are banned and the haulage is undertaken by donkey’s).

    Yours Aye.

  2. When I originally went through your postings Navy One, I saw this and was reminded of all the New England architecture I was born and raised with for most of my life…there is a house located on a corner by US Route 1 in Westbrook, Ct. that looks a great deal like the photo of that tiny little house….it’s a shack really but there are so many tiny little buildings like that in the Northeastern United States…there was another business establishment in Clinton, Ct. that had an interesting zoning history. The original owner got ticked off at the town and painted the house about five or six different colors just to elicit a comment from the Zoning Board…it’s a pediatrician’s office now, but the building is a colorful reminder of temperament and some of the prevailing attitudes of people who live there…k

Comments are closed.