We sometimes hear about odd, quirky stories dealing with homeowners who refuse to move from their homes due to eminent domain unless their terms are met. We cheer and nod in appreciation — who doesn’t love the little guy standing up to the big guy?
Inevitably, they and their homes end up marooned, surrounded by the development that eventually does get built. We’ve researched and compiled details on some of these stories below. We discovered that some of the stories are real and some are urban legend.
Story #1: “The Nail House“
Wu Ping, a businesswoman in Chongqing, China, went toe-to-toe with a developer, refusing to move unless she was given a home of comparable size. The developer refused, wanting to give her a small sum of money instead. The stalemate lasted for three years, culminating in a showdown during March 2007, in which the developer cleared all the land around this woman’s house, stranding her home high, high above. See more incredible photos.
What We Found: According to New Jersey Eminent Domain Law’s blog, the Nail House was demolished on April 2, 2007. But, Wu was given a ground-floor apartment with space to open up a restaurant. Details are sketchy since most articles and blog posts from China seem to have “dried up” around the end of March (“here today, censored tomorrow”). Since the settlement, Wu has “disappeared from the public eye.” Additional reading: Interview with Mrs. Wu Ping , aka “The Nail House Lady.”
Story #2: “Island Farm in Middle of England’s M62 Highway”
(Photo courtesy Google Sightseeing)
In the 1960s, when Highway M62 was being built in northern England to connect the cities of Liverpool and Hull (and others in between), the developers came across a stubborn sheepfarmer who refused to sell his property. So, they built the highway around his farm, isolating him, his sheep, and farm. (No sheep jokes, OK?)
What We Found: Yes, the highway does split around this farm, but the sheepfarmer’s stubborness is urban legend. Since this highway goes through the Pennines mountain range, the engineers found it was difficult to build the east and west roads together due to geological and economical issues. So, it was split apart, with the farm sitting in the middle.
Story #3: House on Hospital Grounds in Bismarck, ND
Over the years, the St. Alexius Hospital in Bismarck, ND, kept purchasing the land around it to expand its hospital. According to a post in Boing Boing, one man refused to move, no matter what offer was made. Eventually, the hospital kept building around him, surrounding his house with hospital parking lots and buildings. He essentially became a resident within the hospital grounds.
What We Found: We went right to the source, contacting St. Alexius Hospital’s PR department. They never called back. Next stop: The good ‘ol Bismarck Tribune’s city desk where I spoke with Steve Wallick, the city editor. Steve has worked at the paper for 32 years and if anyone knows quirks of a city, this guy MUST know — he holds the history of Bismarck in his brain. Unfortunately, mine was just another weird phone call among the hundreds that city desk editors handle everyday. Steven did know about the house and verified that it is a private residence that is surrounded by the hospital’s buildings and parking lots, but he was not at all interested in offering any exciting anecdotes. Nothing about the homeowner standing in the way of a wrecking ball. Nothing about the homeowner laying down in front of a bulldozer. Nothing to make this post more interesting. But, I did get to hear that great North Dakota dialect.
Story #4: Skinny House
(Photo courtesy Boston.com)
Legend has it that the home was built to obscure a neighboring house’s view. Yeah, a good ‘ol neighborhood spat, 1890’s-style.
What We Found: This house still exists and is part of our Famous Home series and Boston.com’s “Must Sees Around Town. Located in Boston’s North End, the home is only 10 feet wide, forcing the owners to place the front door in the side alley. The Skinny House is now surrounded by much bigger buildings, turning the tables on the Skinny House’s alleged existence to block their neighbors’ views.
Know of more isolated home stories? Let us know and we’ll try to research their history.