This abandoned house looms over a salt marsh, its pale pink paint looking like a mirror of the colorful sunsets that so often streak the sky. It’s a celebrated local landmark, one with a definite air of mystery and romance. But the picturesque house’s story is not at all romantic. A local legend says that it’s a spite house, a divorced man’s way of getting the final say against his ex-wife.
According to town lore, the house was built while a local couple was in the process of finalizing their divorce in the 1920s. As part of the divorce agreement, the wife required her husband to build an exact replica of their family home for her. But unfortunately for her, she didn’t specify exactly where.
Her soon-to-be-ex went along with her stipulations and built a home identical to the one they once shared. It would’ve been a sweet, amicable gesture—had he not purposely built it atop an isolated salt marsh. Even the plumbing used salt water instead of fresh water, making the abode allegedly uninhabitable.
The house was enjoyed by the family of the ex-husband as a summer home, and inhabited by a series of families after they sold it in the 1940s. However, it has been vacant since the early 2000s. Now, birds of prey like hawks and snowy owls are the only ones to drop in for an occasional visit. The house has even been slated for demolition, though a grassroots group called Support The Pink House continues to rally to save the beloved landmark with community support.
In 2017, Support The Pink House did extensive research into the history of the house and this legend surrounding its origins, and found it to be inconclusive.
As it turns out, the divorce happened several years after the couple moved in to the house, though they separated soon after moving in. The divorce papers don’t mention any property changing hands. Researchers never found any records of the original couple living in a house that could be considered a replica, and the fact that the house was plumbed with salt water was not unusual for the time. Though Plum Island was somewhat of a recreation area with new year-round and summer homes being built, fresh running water was either non-existent or rare in the area during the 1920s. In fact, indoor plumbing itself was still somewhat new at this time in the U.S. The house has been described as uninhabitable but this may have been an exaggeration, as the family who built it enjoyed it for many years and lived in it themselves, despite owning other stately homes in the neighboring town of Newburyport.
The scandal seems more that the husband “tricked” his wife into thinking they were going to start their new life with their infant son in this house, only to abandon her there with little money and no car while he went about his business, even eating meals at his mother’s house without his wife, and seeing another woman in Boston. So while there does seem to be plenty of spite to go around in this story, we’re not sure it qualifies as a Spite House. However, the rumors persist and arguably add to the charm of the lonely, lovely pink house that sits out on the marsh, beckoning passers by to contemplate its unique beauty.
The Atlas Obscura Podcast is a short, daily celebration of all the world’s strange and wondrous places. Check out this episode about spite houses.
Know Before You Go
The house now sits on Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and has been slated for demolition, but this has been delayed a number of times due to the efforts of a grassroots group called Support The Pink House, which formed in 2016 to save this local icon from demolition. That being said, this is not a place for urban explorers. This house has been relatively undisturbed, as the locals hold tremendous respect for it. They ask for your respect in only photographing it from its exterior.
You can read more about the efforts to save the house at www.supportthepinkhouse.com.