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Bad Neighbors

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In 1878, railroad millionaire Charles Crocker decided to buy up the lots surrounding his mansion on San Francisco’s Nob Hill to improve his view of the surrounding vistas. He reached agreements with all the neighbors except for German undertaker Nicholas Yung, who refused to sell.

“I would have been happier than a condor in the sky,” Crocker wrote, “except for that crazy undertaker.”

His solution was pure spite: He built a 40-foot fence around Yung’s cottage on three sides, spoiling his view in hopes that he would sell. The fence can be seen behind the central mansion in this photo; only the chimneys of Yung’s house project above it.

“How gloomy our house became, how sad,” Yung’s daughter later wrote. “All we could see out our windows was the blank wood of the rich man’s fury. … The flowers in the garden all died, and our lawn turned brown, while inside the house everything felt perpetually damp.”

Yung held out nonetheless — according to some reports he mounted a 10-foot coffin atop the wall facing Crocker’s house — and the two maintained a senseless deadlock for years. Yung died in 1880 and Crocker in 1888; only then, when the mansion was sold to a new owner, did Yung’s heirs relent and sell their lot.