Here at Kiwi.com, we’re interested in all aspects of travel. We realise some people don’t just travel for a holiday, but for a more specific purpose. In this series, we’re going to look at one topic or idea, and suggest destinations for you based on that. This week, we’re looking at…
Spite and Revenge
Ordinarily, pettiness should not be something to take pride in. It’s self-serving, vindictive and makes you look like a very small person (says the man whose job it is to pick at grammatical mistakes). But recently the internet (that thing again; I feel we may never hear the end of it) has decided that being spiteful in a creative way makes it okay. If you agree with that, you’ll like this list.
While exacting a small amount of revenge on someone via Twitter can be spontaneous and, admittedly, sometimes enjoyable, you have to admire the lengths some of the people featured here have gone to.
I mean years of planning and execution just to make a bloody-minded point. So this article is a celebration of them, and maybe some of their locations will inspire you to go and investigate for yourself.
The Skinny House, Boston
We’ll begin with possibly the most famous example on the list; if you’ve heard the term Spite House before, it was probably in relation to this. It was the work of one of a pair of brothers who inherited some land and money when their father died.
While one brother was off serving in the military, the other built himself a house on the land, leaving enough vacant that, technically, he was still sharing it, but nowhere near enough to consider building on. Or that was the idea. Returning home and seeing what his brother had done, the other decided that no, there was actually plenty of room for a house.
And what’s more, a house that would block all the light on one side of his brother’s.
The Equality House, Topeka, Kansas
Have you heard of the Westboro Baptist Church? If you haven’t, look them up and shake your head in disbelief. If you have, you’ll see why this is pretty much perfect.
Aaron Jackson, the head of a charity called Planting Peace, bought the house directly opposite the church with the intention of turning it into a museum charting the history of LGBTQ people around the world, but when zoning laws made this impossible, he did the next best thing and painted his house in rainbow colours.
This act of live-action trolling has continued to make the WBC look ridiculous, as the house has become something of a focus for peace and diversity campaigners. One notable incident occurred in June 2013 when a five-year-old girl set up a lemonade stand outside the house to raise money for the charity.
Members of the WBC responded by yelling obscenities, threatening her (she was five, remember!) and eventually calling the police. The story took off, however, and eventually, through crowdfunding, the little girl’s cause raised $30,000. A happy ending indeed.
The Mooning Man, Brno, Czech Rep.
Not a house, but definitely a work of supreme pettiness. The architect of St. Jakub’s church in Brno desperately wanted to outdo the city’s cathedral (which stands on a hill and is an iconic landmark), and so was determined that the spire on his church should be the highest in the city.
And indeed it is, at 94 metres, beating the cathedral by a clear 10 metres. Not only did he win that battle, but to rub salt further into the wound, he had one of his masons carve this figure of a man clearly pointing his stone arse in the direction of the cathedral. Medieval zing.
The Stripy House, London
The expansively-named Zipporah Lisle-Mainwaring, a property developer, wanted to pull down this house in the exclusive Kensington area of London and build a new home in its place. Local residents objected and the plans had to be shelved.
Lisle-Mainwaring then decided to paint the property with these rather fetching stripes instead; she insists this was not done out of spite, but Mr Justice Gilbart, the judge ruling when residents of the street took their fresh complaints to court, said: “She may well have done [it out of spite], but it does not entitle one to address the motive of a landowner.
“A garish colour scheme may have come about because of an owner’s eccentricity or because of his/her pique […] but there has been no suggestion of any lack of maintenance or repair to the property.”
The Kavanagh Building, Buenos Aires
Gather round, children, and I shall tell you a story. The Kavanagh family were a wealthy bunch in Argentina in the 1930s. Corina, the heiress to the family fortune, fell in love with the son of the Anchorena family, who were both wealthy, but also from a long line of Argentine aristocracy.
Thinking the new money of the Kavanagh family was vulgar and unworthy of being intertwined with such a storied and respected family, the Anchorenas disapproved of the match and forced the two lovers to stop seeing each other.
Now, the Anchorena family lived in a huge home, the Palacio San Martin, which gave them a wonderful view of the Basílica del Santísimo Sacramento, a grand, Romanesque cathedral – paid for by the Anchorena family themselves.
Corina Kavanagh decided to put some of her vulgar money to good use, and commissioned a Modernist skyscraper… which she positioned slap-bang between the palace and the cathedral, blocking the view, and completing the superbly ironic gesture of separating the Anchorena family from something they adored.
The Pink House, Plum Island, Massachusetts
Love – or in this case, lack of it – is the story behind this building as well. A poorly-written divorce settlement stipulated that when one particular couple split up, the husband was to build a replica of their home for his now ex-wife to live in. It did not, however, say where or with what facilities.
Hence, the Pink House, sitting forlornly in the middle of a marsh, miles from anywhere. It’s also miles from any source of fresh running water, so he had it plumbed with salt water. Currently, the fate of the house is unknown; it’s fallen into disrepair, but the Save the Pink House campaign is building strength in the local area, so who knows how soon it might have an actual resident for the first time ever?
Old City Hall, Toronto
Now known as Old City Hall, on completion in 1899 it was the largest building in Toronto. The architect, E.J. Lennox, had been so prolific in the late 19th century, he’d come to be known as the Builder of Toronto. This project, however, was proving to be rather trying.
The costs were unrealistic and he had to constantly argue with the city council to get money to continue with a project they wanted to cut corners with. A dispute with a contractor led to Lennox needing to persuade the police to storm the site and forcibly remove said contractor.
Needless to say, Lennox had the last laugh. He had the faces of everyone he felt had stood in the way of the project turned into grotesques that now sit over the archways at the entrance.
Comfort Station One, St. Petersburg, Florida
The 1920s brought the apparent need for a new church to the city of St. Petersburg, and Henry S. Taylor came up with a handsome, red brick Romanesque design (apparently very popular at that time; see the story of the Kavanagh Building).
Like old E.J. Lennox above, Taylor hit opposition at many turns and eventually wasn’t even paid in full, despite having done more than had been expected of him to get the thing finished. Understandably miffed by the whole process, he then bid on a commission to build something rather less grand: a public toilet.
His projected cost was so low, the city had virtually no choice but to grant him the commission, so Taylor was free to design this; based on his beloved but problem-strewn church, and possibly the grandest place you’ll ever take a pee.
The Edleston Monument, Gainford, England
After giving 41 years of service to the church, Joseph Edlestone died in 1904. His family, assuming compassion and charity from the church, asked if they could build a small memorial to him in the churchyard. The request was refused. But, said those in authority, if the family wished to give some of their land to the church, they could happily build on that.
And build they did. Instead of the modest, subtle original, the family were so angry they decided to build a 40-foot high column that towered over every tree in the churchyard and its surroundings. The piece de resistance (now gone, alas, alas) was a giant V-sign on top, pointed towards the church. Not particularly clever, but bloody funny all the same.
A Triangle of Land, Freeport, New York
This final example wasn’t to annoy one single person, but to spite an entire town. A property developer from the area was so annoyed by plans to lay the town out on a grid system rather than allow it to develop naturally in the way that settlements in Europe had done, that he managed to get his hands on the plans for the road layout.
With these as a reference, he discovered the perfect place to buy a triangular plot of land, and threw a house up virtually overnight. Road building plans had gone too far to be altered, which meant that Newport’s orderly grid had to be broken up by the tyranny of corners. The horror.