9/21/2014

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Iconic pie-shaped Seattle home built out of spite up for sale

Iconic pie-shaped Seattle home built out of spite up for sale
Front of Montlake Spite House. (Joshua Lewis/KOMO News)
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SEATTLE -- There's spite and then there's SPITE. And, depending on the story you believe, there's a home in Montlake -- a small one at that -- that was likely built with the capital 'S' in mind.
 
To neighbors the 830-square-foot house on the corner of 24th Avenue East and East Boston in Montlake is an icon; but what the home, known as the Montlake Spite House, lacks in size it more than makes up for in story, myth and legend.

The house, which is currently up for sale, was originally built in 1925. The listing agent describes it best when she says the original owner took full advantage of the pie-shaped property by creating a pie-shaped home; the back of the home is just 4.5 feet wide and the front is only 15 feet. But aside from its unique shape and size, what sets this home apart from its neighbors is how it allegedly came to be.

"I can't imagine why else someone would build a house like that if it wasn't out of spite," says Lisa Horton, the owner of the home.

Some neighbors tell the tale of a husband, a wife and a divorce settlement. Allegedly a judge awarded the husband the house and the wife the front yard; so out of spite up went the tiny home, by the wife, on top of her front yard. But that's not true, according to The Stranger. A story published several years ago by the newspaper supports a different tale, one which is very familiar to Horton.
 
"I always heard it was a land dispute," Horton says.

The story alleges the home went up after the next-door neighbor, who wanted to buy the pie-shaped corner lot, made a low-ball offer to the property owner. The property owner was so mad at the offer he built the house to get back at his neighbor, who eventually ended up moving.
 
Horton, who has owned the home since 2000, says with all its quirks - like having to stand off to the side to make enough room to open the oven door - the local legend must be true.

"Of course I buy into it," she says.

Eugene Smith, a retired professor at the University of Washington, lived in Montlake for 40 years. Fascinated by local history, in 2004 Smith wrote a book about Montlake's history, devoting one of the chapters to what he calls the eclectic collection of houses seen throughout the neighborhood.
 
"(The Montlake Spite House) was certainly the oddest of all the bungalows," Smith says. "It was the smallest, most peculiar shape."
 
Smith says he was intrigued by the asymmetry of the spite house and came up with his own version of its creation.
 
"What I concluded, since I wasn't able to track down any particular feuds or hate, was that someone came up with a design to fit the lot and built it so it didn't interfere with anyone's view," Smith says.
 
It turns out Montlake's Spite House doesn't stand alone. A handful of stories have been published from across the country featuring similar cases where a home has been built, added-on to or painted to deliberately irritate and annoy others - in many cases a neighbor or city entity.
 
The Montlake Spite House is currently listed for sale at $397,500 and is touted as the "perfect condo alternative…in one of Seattle's best neighborhoods."

The home, currently unoccupied, previously sold for $239,500 in 2000, according to Redfin.

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