The recent case of a Wellington dispute reminds us that ‘good fences make good neighbours’ is not always true. Or, at least, that one neighbours definition of ‘good’ may be markedly different from the other. Such is the case of all spite fences…

One of the most famous examples of the spite fence occurred in San Francisco in 1876.  It was here that Charles Crocker wished to purchase the last small piece of land that would secure him an entire block in Nob Hill.

When he couldn’t come to an agreement on price with the owner of the lot, Nicholas Yung, Crocker instead constructed a fence around Yung’s lot some twelve metres high.

With their house boxed up and sunlight shut out the Yung family were effectively driven from their home. And while Crocker’s fence cost him a huge amount of money to construct the millionaire had no qualms with the expense (or the resulting eyesore).

Described in the San Francisco Chronicle as an “inartistic monument of resentment”, the fence stayed in place until 1904 (long after both Yung and Crocker had died). It was only upon the death of Yung’s widow that the situation was finally resolved and the Crocker family’s ownership of a block on Nob Hill made complete.

Spite Fence

Spite Fence shown behind building, held up by poles.