Skinny House (Boston)

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The Skinny House
SkinnyHouseBoston2.jpg
The Skinny House in the North End of Boston, Massachusetts, is an extremely narrow four-story house reported by the Boston Globe as having the "uncontested distinction of being the narrowest house in Boston."
General information
Town or city Boston, Massachusetts
Country United States
Completed circa 1870s

The Skinny House[1] at 44 Hull Street in the North End of Boston, Massachusetts, USA, is an extremely narrow four-story house reported by the Boston Globe as having the "uncontested distinction of being the narrowest house in Boston."[2] According to the executive director of the Boston Landmarks Commission, "In a city where there are many narrow lots, this far exceeds the norm. ... As far as we know, it is the narrowest house in Boston."[2] It was originally built as a spite house.

Description[edit]

The house spans 10.4 feet (3.16 m) at Hull Street, its widest point. There is no entrance here; the house may only be entered via a small alley.[3] The house tapers to 9.25 feet (2.82 m) at the back. On the interior, the outer walls are as little as 8.4 feet (2.56 m) apart and none are more than 9.2 feet (2.80 m) apart. The home's narrowest interior point is 6.2 feet (1.89 m) across, close enough to allow an adult to touch opposing walls.[2]

There are only five doors in the house although it has four levels. The second floor holds the living room and the bathroom, one of the few spaces separated by a door. As of 2005, the owners are Jennifer Simonic and Spencer Welton, who live what the Boston Globe called "a vertical life".[2]

Simonic described:

We had a party of 10 one New Year's Eve, and when one person has to go to the bathroom, everyone has to move. ... We've had people just walk into our backyard and sit at our picnic table. ... They say, "We'll just be a couple of minutes, we just want to take a couple of pictures." That was bizarre.[2]

According to Welton, who has a degree in architecture, "Instead of doors, we have floors between each space. ... When guests stay over, we put a mattress down on the closet floor. ... Except for sleeping in the closet, they seem to like it."[2]

History[edit]

The Skinny House stands near the top of Copp's Hill, across the street from the historic Copp's Hill Burying Ground and within sight of Old North Church, both official stops on Boston's historic Freedom Trail.

The structure was built as a "spite house" shortly after the American Civil War. According to local legend:

... two brothers inherited land from their deceased father. While one brother was away serving in the military, the other built a large home, leaving the soldier only a shred of property that he felt certain was too tiny to build on. When the soldier returned, he found his inheritance depleted and built the narrow house to spite his brother by blocking the sunlight and ruining his view.[2]

Another source says:

Not much is known about the city's narrowest house. Legend has it that ... its unnamed builder erected it to shut off air and light from the home of a hostile neighbor (also nameless) with whom he had a dispute. ... Believed to have been built after 1874.[4]

According to an assistant archivist at the Boston City Archives, the footprint of 44 Hull Street appeared in The Hopkins Atlas of 1874, Boston Proper. The land was split into five lots in 1884. The smallest of these lots measured only 274 square feet (25.5 m2). This corresponds to the size of the house before renovations that lengthened it.[2]

Location[edit]

The house stands near the top of Copp's Hill, across the street from the historic Copp's Hill Burying Ground and within sight of Old North Church, both official stops on Boston's historic Freedom Trail.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bailey, Steve (2008-03-05). "Virginia landmark home built for spite". The New York Times (San Francisco Chronicle). 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Cronin, Jim (2005-02-13). "Living sideways". Boston Globe. 
  3. ^ Keith, John A (2008-03-02). "Skinny And Spite Houses Profiled". The Money Blogs (The Connors Group, Inc.). 
  4. ^ Boston Globe (November 21, 1997) "Ask the Globe." Section: National/Foreign; Page C22.

Coordinates: 42°22′01″N 71°03′22″W / 42.366907°N 71.056212°W / 42.366907; -71.056212