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Replica Playhouse of Alexandria’s Famous ‘Spite House’ to Go to a Lucky Winner

Group of ten people or so sstanding in front of bright blue playhouse about to cut a red ribbon
Sarah Bagley, John Taylor Chapman, Andrea Courduvelis, Amy Jackson, Amy Wilker, Glenn Graziano, Dave Cleary, and Christine Tipton at the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony. (Photo: Les Machado)

ALEXANDRIA, VA —Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN) of Northern Virginia, custom home builder Alair Alexandria, and Andrea Courduvelis of Sotheby’s International Realty havejoined forces to provide one lucky person with an opportunity to take home a replica playhouse of a famous Alexandria landmark: the Spite House.

The “original” Spite House, located at 523 Queen Street in Alexandria in what was once an alley, measures only 7’6” wide, is approximately 25 feet deep, and is less than 350 square feet. The building, which is often described as the skinniest house in the United States, has been featured in numerous publications, including The New York Times, Southern Living, and Homes & Gardens; on the Oprah Winfrey Show; and has its own Wikipedia page.

While the Spite House is famous, its provenance is murky. The story that has most often been repeated is that John Hollensbury, the owner of one of the adjacent houses, built the narrow brick house in 1830 out of spite, after becoming annoyed at the constant foot, horse, and carriage traffic in the alley at all hours of the day and night. Others say that after a once-friendly relationship between Hollensbury and his neighbor across the alley frayed, Hollensbury built the house so that his antagonist no longer lived next door.

Narrow blue townhouse wedged between two other townhouses.
523 Queen Street, in Alexandria, VA aka “The Spite House” which inspired the SCAN playhouse. (photo by Les Machado)

Either way, the idea that something that was forged out of a challenging time, but has now become something admired and celebrated, resonated with leaders at SCAN. “What was originally built out of spite has become a landmark that brings people together,” said SCAN’s Interim CEO Amy Wilker. “That community and resilience is what drives us at SCAN. Beautiful things can come out of difficult times. The children we serve show us that, the survivors that lead us show us that, and this playhouse is a symbol of that.”

Wilker, spoke during the launch of SCAN’s Tiny Home, Big Heart Playhouse Fundraiser in honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month at a ribbon cutting at Alexandria City Hall on Saturday, March 30. Also in attendance was Courduvelis, Vice-Mayor Amy Jackson, Alexandria City Council Members Sarah Bagley and John Taylor Chapman, Glenn Graziano from Alair Alexandria, SCAN Founder Dave Cleary, and SCAN Board President Christine Tipton.

Blue wooden townhouse playhouse with yellow window frames
Front view of the Spite House playhouse replica. (Photo: Les Machado)

The replica playhouse is 6’9” wide (and thus only six inches narrower than the original), three feet in depth, and approximately 10’9” tall. Its front is virtually identical to its famous inspiration, from the bright blue color to the two big yellow windows with black shutters to the large door. There is a small patch of (artificial) grass and a solar-powered porch light.

Inside, there are multiple stories (just like the house on Queen street), stairs, and a loft. The rear of the house features a sliding pole from the second floor to the artificial grass backyard. Both the front and back yards are enclosed by a yellow picket fence. Emily Bishop, SCAN’s Director of Communications, said that a coworker called it a “huggable house.”

Wooden structure pained all blue with one window and a window box
Spite House replica playhouse rear view. (Photo: Les Machado)

Individuals can contribute $10 to SCAN at www.scanva.org/playhouse to win this one-of-a-kind playhouse. The winner will be drawn on April 24, 2024, in conjunction with Spring2ACTion, Alexandria’s annual day of giving. All proceeds go to SCAN, the only region-wide organization focused solely on preventing child abuse and neglect across Northern Virginia, through education, advocacy, and community engagement. While Courduvelis is the lead sponsor for the fundraiser, Bishop said that there remain multiple opportunities for other sponsors.

Alair Alexandria Partner Matt Bieschke told the Zebra that the home builder was instantly attracted to the project. “SCAN is an incredible organization that works tirelessly to protect children,” Bieschke said. “When I met with their leadership about finding ways for Alair to build a long-term partnership with SCAN, they mentioned the fundraising idea of building a playhouse. I was immediately hooked and knew this was something I wanted to do.”

Courduvelis echoed that the importance of SCAN’s mission appealed directly to her. “Every child should have a safe and supportive environment in which to grow, learn, and thrive,” Courduvelis said. “This fundraiser idea is unique and brilliant, and I’m truly excited about being able to support SCAN’s work in this way.”

One final thing. In 2011, two local bloggers shared another story they heard about the origin of the Spite House. In this telling, Hollensbury, an Alexandria brickmaker, decided to use the bricks he had made in his profession to build his two daughters a small playhouse in the alley next to their home. If that is the case, then Hollensbury would undoubtedly be delighted to discover that one lucky person now has a chance to win a replica playhouse for their own children, built out of love.

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