Having Your Cake (House) and Saying Eat It Too
Gaylordsville Section of New Milford
November 12, 2011
2018 Update: See comments below – October 2018 I just was given a tour of the house that is being renovated by a local mason worker who now owns it. What a fabulous house, He installed high end new windows and I would live there in a heart beat, he best looking dwelling in the neighborhood!
Some things in Connecticut are deservedly world-renowned. The Twain House, high taxes, CTMQ and our fall foliage to name a few. Some other things are world-renowned that you most likely don’t even know about – even if you live in the state. One of these things is, of course, the Gaylordsville Spite House (aka the “Cake House”).
Since this is one our state’s two spite houses (I’ve visited the other one in Mystic as well), allow me a minute to explain such a rare thing. Turning to Wikipedia, “A spite house is a building constructed or modified to irritate neighbors or other parties with land stakes. Spite houses often serve as obstructions, blocking out light or access to neighboring buildings, or as flamboyant symbols of defiance. Because long-term occupation is at best a secondary consideration, spite houses frequently sport strange and impractical structures.”
Excellent. Here’s a nice pictorial of 8 Spite Houses around the country. Most of them – and most spite houses in general – involve either unliked neighbors or perceived unfair town ordinances. Our Gaylordsville Spite House has a somewhat different, rather unique story – one which, as you might expect, contains some iffy details.
First, the facts: I knew about the house but when I spent a night and a day camping and hiking along the Appalachian Trail from Sherman to Kent, I didn’t have it on my ancillary itinerary. But midway through my yo-yo solo hike, I was moving my car up the trail along route 7 and saw it just east of the road. My brain quickly realized what I was looking at and I turned off the major road to get a closer look.
According to accounts, a Warsaw expatriate named Jan Pol (born in 1894) built it as a “monument to injustice.” He had adopted an unwanted baby girl somewhat unofficially (those were the times) and despite loving her, giving her a good life and family, the state came and took her away because the proper paperwork hadn’t been done. So, out of rage, he built what was considered an eyesore in the bucolic New England countryside. Pol even had a plaque installed on the house to remind people that she was – as the plaque said, “kidnapped away from freedom to the godlessness of Hitlerism.”
Wow. That’s hardcore.
These days, it’s not occupied, but from time to time (usually on a Saturday morning in the spring) some guy named Johnny Flynn sells some of his antiques and things in the ground-floor room. During my visit, the grounds around the building looked a bit of a mess.
Now, on to the “iffy” parts of the story. The adopted girl was said to be “disreputable” (and perhaps not a baby at all). This girl, Pol’s adopted daughter, got pregnant while still a minor and had a baby girl. This brought the situation to the state’s attention who swooped in and took both girls away from Pol. Connecting the dots, it was assumed that the baby was Pol’s. I have no idea if he denied this or if any legal action was ever executed.
I do know the baby’s name was Catherine. I do not know if the rumor that “her cradle resides in the top-most tier to this very day” is true. And of course it’s indisputable that Pol built this mess and that it has somehow withstood the test of time.
To me, the “house” really isn’t so awful. Route 7 have been built up through New Milford and while the drive north is one of the best in Connecticut, it has its share of crap already. At least this crap is more interesting than the more recent crap.
Houses, Communities, Libraries & Businesses
Al saysAugust 4, 2013 at 6:37 pm
Beg to differ regarding your statement that this is the only spite house in Connecticut. There is at least 2 – one I know of in Mystic Ct on Gravel St and I’ve read about a 19 century one in Collinsville CT.
Steve saysAugust 5, 2013 at 12:13 pm
Awesome, thank you Al.
I have found info on both – the Mystic one is still there at 13 Gravel Street, but looking at the satellite image, it doesn’t appear to be blocking anyone’s view of the water anymore. (But it certainly still counts.)
The Collinsville one is no longer standing, and it wasn’t a house so much as a spiteful structure built between two houses. The site is now part of the historic walking tour, so it certainly merits a CTMQ page.
And this is why I write this site. To learn more cool stuff.
Timothy Dalton saysMay 9, 2016 at 12:02 pm
Is that place the Spite House in gaylordsville CT known to be haunted from that same little girl Catherine ? And does anyone know who owns it ?
Lth saysFebruary 7, 2017 at 1:56 pm
I live in Gaylordsville
There have many rumors about this over the years
One is that there was a 50 caliber
machine gun in the top section for when the Nazis invaded
Another one is the fellow who allegedly got Jons daughter pregnant is in the foundation
Jonathan Buck saysFebruary 7, 2017 at 9:15 pm
I attended school with Leona. She did not have a good child hood .I remember buggy whip cuts on her legs. The state came in and took her and Catherine the child and placed them in care of another family.Mr Pol was a junk dealer, There are many stories about him a strange man. The last I heard is Leona lived in Ma. She has declined interviews .And I so hope she is happy and safe.
Rose saysSeptember 8, 2017 at 10:15 pm
Friends live right up the road from the ” cake house”… I called it the Dr.Suess house before I knew the story…. Only recently I noticed that it’s being restored. I asked a neighbor who told me a quick version of the story… He claimed he hadn’t lived there long but I got the feeling he knew more than he let on, or was possibly a relative. I was gonna buy the book from amazon… The price….$500.00! I am really curious to know the story in its entirety…
patricia saysOctober 16, 2018 at 11:12 am
October 2018 I just was given a tour of the house that is being renovated by a local mason worker who now owns it. What a fabulous house, He installed high end new windows and I would live there in a heart beat, he best looking dwelling in the neighborhood!
Beth Murphy saysJuly 18, 2021 at 7:57 pm
Timothy Dalton, the tower in Gaylordsville is not haunted. Catherine is still alive. My brother Peter Flynn owns it now.
Lord Humongous The Toe Cutter saysOctober 11, 2022 at 12:31 am
Dude sounded like a real gaylord.