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The Skinny on the Historic Skinny House in Boston

The Skinny on the Historic Skinny House in Boston

Built in the 1880s, the "Skinny House," which resides at 44 Hull Street in Boston's North End neighborhood, is a celebrity in its own right of the real estate world. The building went on the market early in 2017. It sold in May 2017 for a price of $900,000, which is about $5,000 more than the asking price of $895,000. The building was sold by Cabot & Company. The Skinny House is one of the most unusual structures in the city. It is about 10 feet wide by 30 feet long, four stories high, and covers a total area of 1,166 SF.

Prior to its sale, the Skinny House was used as a rental unit. People could rent the structure out on a short-term basis for a price of $250 per night. In general, it costs an average of $3,285 per month to rent an apartment of any size in North End. It is one of Boston's priciest neighborhoods for apartment living, and it is surpassed only by the Bay Village, the downtown Financial District, and the Leather District in Chinatown. In Bay Village, the average monthly rental price across all properties is $3,300. That number increases to an average of $3,333 per month to rent an apartment in the Financial District, and it tops out at $3,409 per month to rent in the Chinatown – Leather District.

According to the Boston Globe, the Skinny House is officially the narrowest house in Boston. The surrounding area, which is Boston's oldest residential neighborhood, there are many small lots and homes squeezed into small spaces. The North End was established in the 1600s, and became part of the city in the 1800s. Within the neighborhood are other historic structures like the Paul Revere House, which was built in 1680.

Despite their historically small sizes, however, no homes in the North End are as narrow as the Skinny House, which was initially built as a spite house. The property was initially purchased, along with its adjacent lot, by two brothers. While one brother left the United States to serve in the Army, the other brother went to work constructing a large single-family home. Upon returning to their combined lots, the brother who owned the Skinny House lot put up the tiny structure to prove his brother's greediness in building the monstrous home next door. The Skinny House, despite being much smaller than the house next door, was just wide enough to block natural sunlight from reaching its interiors. Interestingly, disputes over shadows are still common in Boston today. Some developers across the city have encountered backlash from citizens, historic organizations, and city ordinances because their buildings were found to block natural sunlight from surrounding structures and (illegally) leave them in darkness during critical times of the day. According to city regulations, new buildings cannot block sunlight in public spaces during the first hour after sunrise or the last hour before sunset.

Given its unusual design, those who live in the Skinny House must make a few adjustments to use it. There is no official entrance to the place, so people must enter the structure through an adjacent narrow alley. At the back, the house narrows down to about 9.25 feet. Inside, the outermost walls are about 8 feet apart at the narrowest, and no more than 9.2 feet at the widest. The narrowest part of the home's interior is just 6.2 feet in length. In total, the Skinny House has five doors, including the entrance and bathroom doors. The interior layout in itself is a feat of architecture and engineering. The main entrance is on the first floor, while the second floor contains the living room and the single bathroom. These two rooms are divided by one of the home's few doors.

The Skinny House enjoys a prominent location in the North End, which is one of Boston's most prominent neighborhoods. The North End, a longtime residential neighborhood, is steeped in history. The Skinny House stands near the top of Copp's Hill, which is directly across from the Copp's Hill Burying Ground. The house is also within view of the Old North Church. Both landmarks are main attractions on the historic Freedom Trail.