The story of the Upper East Side “Spite House”

SpitehousefrontNew York City real estate brings out the evil in people.

Take the bizarre case of wealthy clothier Hyman Sarner and eccentric contractor Joseph Richardson, who owned separate parcels of land on 82nd Street and Lexington Avenue in the 1880s.

Sarner wanted to build an apartment house on his lot. So he offered Richardson $1,000 for his parcel, a five-foot wide ribbon on Lexington seemingly too narrow to develop.

Richardson demanded $5,000. Sarner refused, was called a tightwad, and had the door slammed in his face, explains this passage from the 1929 edition of Valentine’s Manual of Old New York, by way of New York Architectural Images.

In 1882, Sarner constructed his residence anyway. And then Richardson came up with a nasty plan to spite his neighbor forever.

spitehousedisp2

“‘I shall build me,’ Richardson said to his daughter, according to Valentine’s Manual, ‘a couple of tall houses on the little strip which will bar the light from Sarner’s windows overlooking my land, and he’ll find he would have profited had he paid me the $5,000.'”

129east82ndstreet2012Richardson did just that; he moved into what was known all over the city as his “Spite House,” a much talked-about and gawked-at curiosity. Check out floor plans here.

He died there in 1897. The Spite House, as well as Sarner’s apartment building, were bulldozed in 1915 to make way for a new apartment residence at 129 East 82nd Street, which still stands today, at left.

[Bottom photo: Streeteasy]

Here’s a collection of other Spite Houses around the country.

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2 Responses to “The story of the Upper East Side “Spite House””

  1. New York, New York | Delancey Stewart Says:

    [...] a city so rich in history provides the fodder for endless stories. If you haven’t checked out Epehemeral New York before, please do. It’s guaranteed to make you into a [...]

  2. Elsewhere | Visualingual Says:

    [...] The Story of the Upper East Side “Spite House”: “New York City real estate brings out the evil in people.” [...]

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