Everyone loves a story about an underdog, so we’ve brought you several.
These are stories about people who had developers, powerful corporations, and governments try to force them out of their homes, but stood up against them and stayed put.
Here are 24 times stubborn homeowners refused to evacuate, and faced unexpected consequences.
1) Kelly Williams was a teenager when the city of New York announced its plans to bulldoze her building as a part of the many Upper West Side tenement buildings slated to be demolished in the name of urban renewal. She fought back against the powers that be, successfully organizing tenants in her West 88th Street building to stop the demolition. A half-century later, her childhood home is now a low-income co-op building and an example of the battles that spawned during the urban renewal era.
Williams, who is now the executive director of Strycker’s Bay Neighbourhood council, which has fought tirelessly to bring back people who were displaced by the city’s urban renewal plan says, “Connecting to the history, and understanding how a building remained low-income or how we got a middle-income building constructed, will make people have a better connection to the West Side.”
At the time, the area was home to a mix of low-income Puerto Ricans, whites, and African-Americans, and was considered somewhat of a ruin. As such the urban renewal plan of 1959 was intended to revive the neighborhood without destroying its character. Williams states: “This urban renewal was supposed to be different […] They were going to do it in stages and be focused on not necessarily completely bulldozing a neighborhood. The goal was to maintain the ethnic and economic diversity of the neighborhood, but also to improve the quality of the housing.”
However, the results were mixed. At 91st and Columbus Avenue, there is a spot known as “Site 30” where 70 families had agreed to leave their homes. In exchange, they were promised slots in public housing, but that housing was never built, according to Williams. Ultimately, the urban renewal paved the way for the gentrification of the Upper West Side, which created the diverse yet wealthier neighborhood that exists today.
2) Edith Macefield’s property was coveted by developers looking to tear down the existing properties and rebuild their own. They offered her over 1 million dollars to buy her house, but Edith famously refused. Instead, they built their properties around her home and she later became the inspiration for the animated film “Up”.
3) Mary Cook lived in a neighborhood that was being demolished. She refused to sell her narrow, yet beautiful home. Today her house sits tightly squeezed in between two large buildings. The scene looks like it was taken from a children’s storybook – an added bonus to keeping her home intact!
4) A wealthy man named Bob Guccione wanted to buy and demolish Vera Coking house so that he could build his Casino around it, but she refused. Later, Donald Trump also tried to buy her house, but Vera refused him too. Wonder if anyone else will try to coax her out of the place and fail.
5) If you walk past 54-½ St. Patrick Street in Toronto, you’ll probably do a double take. It looks as if aliens flew by in a UFO and beamed up half of the historical 1890s duplex, leaving an empty place where half of the building once stood. Of course, that’s not actually what happened. BlogTO reported that half the building still stands because in the 1950s its owner refused to sell it to a developer who had bought all the neighboring properties for redevelopment. As BlogTO describes it, the building remains “marooned opposite a concrete surface parking garage and snuggled tightly against a major housing development.”
6) A group of stubborn homeowners refused to move when developers tried to force them out. In retaliation, China’s government paved a highway around the homeowner so that it looks like the house is sitting in the middle of a road. The residents eventually moved out, but the home remains as a symbol of resistance against developers.
7) When Randal Acker refused to sell his little Queen Anne Victorian Home in Downtown Portland, the developers built a massive Portland State University Residence Hall around it. Now the house exists next to student housing which can’t be the most peaceful way to live, but at least Randal stood up for himself.
8) In Guangzhou, China, authorities were forced to build a ring of roads around a block of flats because the three families who reside there refused to move. They got to keep their homes but the noise from the traffic must be abysmal. Hopefully, their insistence on keeping their homes is worth it.
9) This story ends with the owner selling his home, but he was certainly money-savvy. Austin Spriggs had a home in Washington D.C. and was offered $3 million dollars to give it up, but he said no. He later sold that same house for 4 million dollars. The home was later converted to a bakery.
10) Salah Oudjani owned a coffee house that he had worked in for the past 46 years. All of the other buildings in the vicinity were torn down, but he refused to give up his store. The area used to be an old neighborhood of Roubaix in Northern France. Now there is a road that runs past and a sport’s complex opposite so hopefully, that brings Mr. Oudjani plenty of trade.
11) The founders of this hotel wanted to buy the houses so that they could begin building but the asking price was too high. So instead of finding a different property, they decided that the better idea was to build the hotel around the two buildings. The owners eventually moved out and now the buildings are souvenir shops.
12) A Chinese family refused to move their relatives’ massive ancient graves. The bizarre column stood about 10 meters above the foundation floor for months. Eventually, the family accepted compensation to remove the structure. It’s quite sad that these new buildings and developments are taking precedence over ancient graves.
13) These farmers are stuck in between three separate highways. There were hundreds of households that were once in the vicinity but agreed to be relocated, however, the government was unable to reach a consensus with this family so they remain on their property, continuing their rural living in an ever-expanding urban world.
14) Mrs. Wu Ping was the only person left in her neighborhood of 241 properties who refused to abandon their home. She battled ceaselessly with contractors for a period of three years before she caved in on April 2007. However, she received quite the lump sum for finally evacuating.
15) This Saloon has refused to sell their property to an apartment company that is planning on erecting a huge building. Now the apartment has to build their tower around them. The sound of the construction must be hell to listen to, but at least they kept their property.
16) This is another example of property owners refusing to sell their buildings to developers, who in turn decide to build their properties anyway despite the fact that the design will be compromised. The Spiegelhalter family refused to sell their shop to the expanding Wickhams Department store, and this is the result of that construction job.
17) The infamous Rockefeller Plaza Complex was moved because of these two building owners who refused to sell their property. Back in 1892, three Irishmen – Paddy Daly, Daniel Hurley, and Connie Hurley – signed a long-term lease on the property at 1240 Sixth Avenue and opened a pub called Hurleys. The pub became immensely popular, and they even managed to survive prohibition by operating a speakeasy through the rear entrance on 49th Street. Later, as Rockefeller gobbled up land throughout midtown at the end of the Great Depression, he was able to buy the building from its owners – but what to do about its tenants, whose lease trumped any attempts at eviction? The pub owners made him an offer: $250,000,000 to buy them out (for comparison, $250,000,000 is the initial estimate of what the entire Rockefeller Center complex cost to build). Rockefeller said no; they refused to leave. Meanwhile, at the opposite corner, 1258 Sixth Avenue was owned by one John F. Maxwell, who flat out refused to sell. In the end, Rockefeller, one of the richest and most powerful men in the world, had no choice but to build his gargantuan skyscraper between the two townhouses.
18) The tenants of an apartment building in Kunming, China, have to cross a moat after the contractors dug a ditch in an attempt to force out the last family. The household was without water and electricity for some time. The family even said that somebody shot a bullet through one of their windows in an effort to get them to leave.
19) The owner of a nail house in Nanning, China wasn’t able to reach an agreement with the local authority about compensation for the demolition of his home. As a result, his house now sits in the middle of a road that is under construction. They could have built a bridge over the house, but clearly wanted to make the owner’s life more difficult.
20) The residents of the Guangfuli Area in Shanghai have all collectively come to an agreement to not leave their homes. They were not to be intimidated and instead they created an entire “nail neighborhood”. Tao Weiren sits in front of this two-story house, which is now surrounded by high-end condos.
21) This is Zheng Meiju standing in front of her nail house in Rui’an Zhejiang Province, China in July 2013. At the time, she had been living in her partially demolished home for almost a year. Even though the water and electricity supply had been cut due to the demolition.
22) This is a farm in the middle of Narita Airport in Japan. The farmers who own it are refusing to give up the land, which sits in the middle of the airport. Because they won’t evacuate, the runway for the airport is only half usable. Since they live in the backyard of the flight path, their experience must be loud and rather disruptive.
23) These hard-line developers in China dug out pathways for a river so that it surrounds the homeowners who refused to move out of their 900-year-old village. This is one of the more extreme cases of Chinese authorities putting pressure on residents who are in the way of renewal projects. If that’s not the result of capitalism’s devastation, I don’t know what is.
24) This was the last remaining home of an old neighborhood that was demolished to make room for the Shanghai World Expo’s parking lot in 2010. It stood under Nanpu Bridge. The picture was captured on April 6th, 2010. The holdout owner’s name was Shi Yuji. The house was destroyed days after this picture was taken, and the owner moved into a workers’ dormitory.