At seven feet wide and approximately 25 feet deep, the tiny bright blue home at 523 Queen Street in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia is the narrowest house in America. With just 325 square feet between its two stories, the historic Hollensbury Spite House may look cute, but its origins are anything but sweet.
Built in 1830 by the owner of the two adjacent houses, local brickmaker and city council member, John Hollensbury, the miniscule residence was intended to keep horse-drawn wagons and boisterous loiterers out of his alley. By 1830 wagon wheels had carved gouges into the exterior walls of both homes, and Hollensbury had had enough.
The Hollensbury home isn’t the only skinny house to be built in spite. Boston has its own 10-foot-wide spite house, also called the Skinny House, on Hull Street. New York City’s version, the famous five-foot-wide spite house on Lexington Avenue, was demolished in 1915.
Structurally, the Hollensbury spite house is more of an enclosed alley than a house, The New York Times reports. The brick walls of the older houses on either side form the walls—the pockmarks from wagon wheels of old are still visible in the living room. Though it likely wasn’t up to code when it was constructed, ex post facto law has grandfathered the beloved spite house into the modern building code. These days the peculiar home is privately owned and occupied part of the year.
“I love the idea of it — that something like this can exist. It makes the world a little more magical,” the home’s owner told the Times in 2008.