Nail Houses

Friday, 21st August 2009 by

If you happen to live in one of the countries1 in which Pixar has chosen to release their latest movie before now, then you might already have seen their latest 3D rendered movie, Up; in which the protagonist’s home is the last remaining property that stands in the way of enormous modern building developments.2

Unlike in Up however, the real life properties that find themselves in this situation don’t just float away, and their refusal to be moved has earned them the moniker of Nail Houses.

Edith Macefield moved into her home in Seattle in 1966, and in recent years turned down many increasingly large offers from developers looking to build on her land. In the end the developers decided to build the complex anyway, leaving her home boxed in on three sides. In the Street View images we can see the construction underway all around her little home, with her distinctive blue car parked outside visible even from satellite.

Edith sadly died in June last year, but since then her home was actually used as part of a publicity stunt promoting Pixar’s movie, and remains for the moment, as a reminder of what can be achieved by refusing to be steamrolled.

In Washington D.C., a Mr. Austin Spriggs reportedly turned down an offer of 3 million dollars for his property as it was directly in the way of a massive new development. Mr. Spriggs was apparently seeking a loan to open up a pizza restaurant on the premises, but when the Street View car passed, this was clearly still some way from becoming a reality.

It turns out that there are people all over the place who have decided, for the sake of pride, morals, or plain stubbornness, to remain in their homes no matter what. Here’s the home of a man who lives in the car park of the St. Alexius hospital in Bismarck, North Dakota. I wonder if he gets free parking?

Not even the biggest of companies can always get their own way either. At Microsoft’s Redmond West campus there’s one solitary private property, which was apparently left alone under the agreement that the house could stay there until the present owners died.

The phenomenon of “homeowner holdout” isn’t just constrained to private homes either. At Tokyo’s Narita Airport, the proposed layout of the tarmac was completely ruined by several farmers, who steadfastly refused to sell their land to the airport. You can see how the runways weave around the various farms that get in their way, as well as being split into tiny, useless segments by other bits of farmland.

I’m sure that this post only scratches the surface of this topic, so do you know of any nail houses in your area, and what’s the story behind them?

Wikipedia has more info on Nail Houses, and we wrote a story in 2006 about The Man Who Lives in the Middle of the M62. Thanks to Boing Boing and Deputy Dog.

  1. If like me you live in the UK then you’ll have to wait until October! Disgusting, I know. 

  2. Those of us old enough to remember movies in 1987 may instead prefer a reference to the nail house in *batteries not included