A House Divided

On June 16, 1858, the Republican Party in the state of Illinois officially nominated Abraham Lincoln as its candidate for the U.S. Senate. In accepting the nomination, Lincoln gave a now-famous speech, where (in regard to the issue of slavery), he stated that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” The quote, which dates back to the New Testament (Mark 3:25 if you’d care to look it up), is talking about figurative houses, though — societies and cultures, not, well, actual homes. Because as it turns out, actual homes, divided, can stand just fine.



The house pictured above is in Toronto; you can see it here on Google Street View. It can be found at the appropriate address of 54-½ St. Patrick Street (here’s the house number on the front door). And it’s pretty clear that the right side (from our view) is, well, not there.

The house dates back to the late 1800s, per BlogTO, when it was built as part of a series of row houses. But by the 1950s, the neighborhood had fallen into disrepair and developers had taken notice of the area, seeing it as ripe for gentrification. Over the next few decades, most of the row house owners sold their property. In the 1970s, as the Toronto Star reported, the house above (and the part missing) were targeted by one of these developers. The owners of the north side of the building sold; the owners of the south side stood firm, wanting to keep their home. Eventually, the developer just gave up, building their apartment complex but with slightly modified plans, and leaving half a house in its wake.

Strangely, that wasn’t such an unusual solution for the area at the time. Here’s a picture from the mid-1970s (via Urban Toronto) — it’s unclear when, exactly, but the car parked in the other driveway is apparently a 1974 Volvo — and you’ll see that for a while, 54-½’s neighbors chose a similar fate:


In any event, 54-½ is the last half-house remaining on the block. And it should last a while longer. The current owner of the house, who owns a magazine publisher based next door, purchased the home from his neighbors (the original holdouts) in 2012 and plans to keep the outside as-is, although the inside may become office space for his magazine publishing company.

Bonus Fact: In 1983, developers in Osaka, Japan, acquired some land and got to work in building a 16-story office building, now known as the Gate Tower Building. But unfortunately for the developers, they couldn’t get a building permit — at some point during their efforts to acquire the land, the government decided to build a new highway (the Hanshin Expressway) which would pass through the area. The developers refused to give in to the highway planning board, and ultimately, the two sides came to an agreement: the highway would run right through the building, as seen here. Floors four through eight are taken up by the Expressway.

From the Archives: Building, Apart: No man is an island; no man stands alone. That’s another famous quote. And it’s another one disproven by a really weird house.

Take the Quiz: Categorize these places. (Harder than it seems, in part because the timer is pretty short.)

Related: Selected Speeches and Writings of Abraham Lincoln. Contains more than just his campaign speeches; there are lots of letters from President Lincoln (some before his presidency) about various other topics, too. 4.8 stars on 13 reviews.