Homeowner Luo Baogen, who lives in Wenling, China, refused to sell his house to allow the government to build a road through where it stood, so the government built the road anyway, leaving the house circled by tarmac. [atlantic.com]
But recently Luo Baogen finally agreed to sell, so the house is now being torn down.
This definitely isn't the first time standoffs between homeowners and governments have resulted in houses stranded in the middle of roads. Here on WU, we previously reported about a Japanese example of the phenomenon from 1964. But it seems to me this happens more often in Asia than anywhere else. I have no idea why.
In 1954, 23-year-old Jack Fletcher showed off his new home to the media. Reporters called it the "house of the future" because of all the unique features he had designed into it. The windows closed by themselves when sensors felt rain. Lights came on automatically when someone entered a room. The phone had a speed-dial feature. The lamps didn't need cords. Instead you just placed them over induction coils installed in the floor. And strangest of all, electromagnets caused pots and pans to float over the stove (which also used induction coils to heat the food).
The house was in West Covina, CA (in the LA area). I wonder if it's still standing? I don't see why it wouldn't be, but I haven't been able to find an address for it. Read more about it here and here.
People refusing to sell their homes to urban developers -- so they end up having highways and skyscrapers built around them -- is one of those things that happens often enough that it's 'no longer weird,' as Chuck would say. But here's an early example, from the mid-1960s.
Tokyo hosted the Summer Olympics in 1964, and launched massive urban construction projects in anticipation of the games. Thousands of people were offered money to sell their homes to make way for new highways. Almost everyone took the offer of cash. But one elderly couple refused to move.
Although it has not yet become a tourist attraction, this house, an antique shop, standing bravely alone at the junction of three busy highways, is a source of amusement to passersby, of irritation to hurried motorists and the local police, a headache to the Tokyo Municipal Government and a simple matter of pride and principle to the 81-year-old owners and sole inhabitants.
When the new highways were being projected, owners of houses on the chosen sites moved away more or less willingly, but this old couple decided that the indemnity offered was not enough for a home containing a lifetime of memories.
The old man boned up on his law and discovered that he could not be forcibly ejected, and that although he may be a nuisance, his house could not be considered a traffic hazard as it is plainly visible to the naked eye. There have, in fact, been no accidents up to now simply because traffic slows down to take a better look at the incongruous, isolated building.
So the local police agency turned to the Metropolitan Highways Corporation who, after one and a half years of vain negotiation with the stubborn couple, have now thrown the matter into the lap of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
In the meantime, the old couple have lost all but the most intrepid of their customers, for few dare to cross a busy highway at the risk of life and limb and, for the same reason, there are days on end when the old couple cannot get out of their house to do the necessary shopping. But old people, they say, need little sustenance.
The incessant blare of car horns and the overbearing odor of exhaust-gas fumes which would drive a younger couple to surrender, fall on age-deafened ears and insensitive nostrils, disturbing them neither during the day nor at night. For old people, they say, need little sleep.
The offer of money to remove themselves and resettle in a new home is no temptation to them, for their days of adventure are over and all their memories are enclosed within the four walls of this tiny building. -- The East, vol 1, No. 5, 1965, p.54-55.
A would be bank-robber in Austria was foiled in his robbery attempt when the bank closed early for a staff training session. The man came equipped with a Barack Obama mask and gun but was stopped at the first hurdle when the locked door refused to open for him. Staff inside initially thought it was part of the training or a joke, and their laughter aggravated the criminal until he eventually fled empty-handed (Digital Spy).
More successful were the thieves that managed to steal several US landmarks, including the Palace of Fine Arts, USS Pampanito and Ghirardelli Square. Models of course, part of an exhibition of Mark and Jannet Benz’s Lego creations on display at the Palo Alto Museum of American Heritage, and worth several thousand dollars. A reward of $500 has been offered by the Benzes (SF Weekly).
But if Jan and Mark are thinking of upping their home security, they should perhaps avoid following the example of Alexander Skopintsew of Primorye in Russia, who decided to deter intruders by planting homemade landmines around his garden. He was inevitably found out when a trespasser was injured when setting off one of these devices, and charged with possession of illegal weapons, receiving a suspended sentence (ABC News).
Of course another alternative might be to have nothing worth stealing. Perhaps something similar occurred to retired lorry driver Ken Strickland, who amassed a collection of over 3000 watering cans, each meticulously documented. Sadly Mr. Strickland died last month aged 78, bequeathing the entire assortment to his niece, who is at a loss as to what to do with them and may in fact sell them on behalf of a charity. One watering can however will not be up for sale, it contains her uncle's ashes (Metro).
Meanwhile hundreds of other women up and down the UK might be feeling a little let down this Monday, after British department store Debenhams recorded a 76% surge in sales of their range of “anatomy boosting” underwear for men ahead of Valentine’s day. Turn around is fair play, I say (Reuters).