Visiting The Hollensbury Spite Home in Alexandria, VA: Historic Quirkiness

Exploring cityscapes at all times fascinates me, particularly when encountering various architectural kinds.

Whether or not it’s the charming gingerbread cottages of Martha’s Winery or the basic federalist row homes on Acorn Road, there’s at all times a brand new and intriguing sort of structure to find.

Throughout my latest journey to Alexandria, VA, I stumbled upon one thing distinctive – a spite home. Let’s delve into what spite homes are and take a more in-depth have a look at the one in Alexandria.

What’s a “spite home?”

Spite homes, these peculiar dwellings, are artful little creations deliberately designed to vex or inconvenience neighbors.

The origin of spite homes typically lies in retaliatory motives, as disgruntled folks use these constructions to settle disputes and set up residential dominance.

These constructions take numerous kinds, starting from whimsically formed or strategically positioned buildings to purposefully obstructive options that convey a message with out the necessity for phrases.

Within the annals of spite homes, the “Skinny Home” in Boston, Massachusetts, is a notable exemplar.

In response to legend, it arose when a mid-Nineteenth-century feud between two brothers over inherited land reached its pinnacle. The elder brother devoured up the inheritance and constructed a big residence, relegating a slender strip for the youthful sibling’s dwelling.

In a retaliatory act of architectural defiance, the youthful brother birthed the Skinny Home—an edifice that blocked his brother’s daylight and consider.

Alexandria, Virginia, has its personal model of this and it’s referred to as the “Hollensbury Spite Home.”

Hollensbury Spite House Alexandria
The Hollensbury Spite Home, small blue constructing within the center.

The Hollensbury Spite Home background

In response to lore, the development of the dwelling in 1830 is attributed to John Hollensbury, a brick maker hailing from Alexandria, Virginia.

Residing in a residence erected in 1780 adjoining to the alley, Hollensbury’s motivation for erecting the notorious Spite Home is shrouded in three distinct narratives.

Essentially the most broadly circulated account means that Hollensbury’s vexation stemmed from persistent loitering within the alley adjoining to his residence.

Compounded by the harm inflicted by horse-drawn wagons, their wheel hubs leaving unpleasant gouges on the aspect of his house, Hollensbury took decisive motion.

In 1830, fueled by frustration, he acquired the alley at 523 Queen Road for the sum of $45.65 and, as an act of spite, erected the small dwelling.

A contrasting narrative posits that Hollensbury’s camaraderie with a neighboring good friend soured when he grew weary of the fixed hurt inflicted by the good friend’s carriage upon his residence in the course of the 1820s, resulting in the dissolution of their once-amicable relationship.

And at last, a 3rd rendition of the story suggests a extra familial motivation behind the Spite Home’s development. On this model, Hollensbury purportedly constructed the dwelling as a playhouse for his two daughters, with one in all them ultimately residing in the home as an grownup.

Hollensbury Spite House Alexandria

Initially, this diminutive Spite Home shared a reference to Hollensbury’s unique residence, however over time, they underwent a bodily separation, buying distinct addresses.

In a noteworthy chapter of its historical past, the Hollensbury Spite Home transitioned from residential quarters to serving as a college earlier than reverting to its residential roots.

Quick ahead to 1990, when businessman Jack Sammis stepped into the narrative by buying the property for $130,000.

Unsure about its future utility, Sammis ultimately enlisted the experience of designers to revamp the inside. The main focus of the renovation aimed toward accentuating unique particulars comparable to wood flooring and brick partitions, whereas relocating heating and cooling programs.

Navigating the problem posed by the diminutive entrance door, Sammis needed to curate smaller furnishings alternatives from native vintage shops, lending a novel character to the Spite Home’s inside.

Nestled behind the home, a petite backyard and patio function a captivating backdrop, and when the house owner married a industrial actual property agent, they celebrated their nuptials on this picturesque house.

Presently, the home has developed right into a weekend retreat for its homeowners, providing a tranquil escape in the course of the balmy summer season months. The residence additionally operates as a mattress and breakfast, weaving various tales into its historical past.

The Spite Home additionally reportedly served as an experimental abode for a pair with aspirations of circumnavigating the globe on a cruise ship. Opting to check their tolerance for confined dwelling areas, they rented the property, including yet one more distinctive chapter to the residence’s eclectic narrative.

Incomes its moniker because the “Skinniest Home in the USA,” this distinctive abode boasts dimensions of seven ft 6 inches in width and 25 ft in depth, located on a compact lot measuring simply 356 sq. ft.

This consists of the slender two-story home spanning 350 sq. ft, complemented by a walled rear backyard and patio space, which unfolds inside a cosy 7 ft broad and 12 ft deep enclave.

As of the final obtainable knowledge in 2022, the land itself carries a valuation of $381,000, whereas the constructing holds an appraised worth of $220,000. Combining these parts yields a complete property worth surpassing the $600,000 mark.

Hollensbury Spite House Alexandria from street

The Hollensbury Spite Home is a frequent cease on guided excursions of the Alexandria Historic District, which is a stupendous space to take a look at. The home has additionally been featured on a whole lot of completely different nationwide media retailers, together with the Oprah Winfrey Present and in addition CBS Information, amongst many others (see the video under that reveals the Spite Home inside).

A more in-depth inspection of the entrance facade reveals an intriguing element within the type of a forged iron fireplace protect. This nineteenth-century addition signifies that the property proprietor had, at the moment, paid the native fireplace division for his or her providers in extinguishing any potential fires on the residence.

Additionally, positioned discreetly within the backside proper nook of the entrance window is a particular “canine finder” signal. This small however impactful placard that reads: “In case of a fireplace, please rescue canine.” I had by no means seen a type of earlier than however thought it was fairly cool.

Hollensbury Spite House Alexandria

If you end up with some free time, I strongly suggest paying a go to. The world boasts fascinating cobblestone streets and colonial buildings that exude a fascinating allure, transporting you again in time.

Notably, the Skinniest Home is only one of 4 spite homes in Alexandria, with others located on Prince Road and King Road. Every of those architectural curiosities dates again to the 1800s, with the King Road home erected in 1812.

Ultimate phrase

Discovering spite homes for the primary time was really intriguing. What added to the fascination was the belief that Alexandria is house to a number of of those architectural oddities, with counterparts scattered throughout different cities and even internationally.

The Skinniest Home, with its simply ignored stature, conceals a fascinating historical past. Its unassuming measurement would possibly make it simple to overlook, so make sure to seek the advice of a map when exploring the realm. Though a quick go to suffices as a result of its measurement, the expertise is properly price it. Take a second to incorporate it in your exploration of the charming historic district of Alexandria.

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