That #@$% Viral Flag House: The Real Scoop

Chances are, you’ve seen a picture of this flag-themed house in Cambridge, Maryland, at least once in recent years as you scrolled through your Facebook or Twitter feeds. Even though it started making the viral rounds in 2011, it’s still popping up, right alongside the lies about how it ended up that way.

Another meme bringing the photo and lies together as one just showed up during this Inquisitr writer’s morning smartphone time, originally posted by the American Military Facebook page (in tandem with an impressive 280,274 likes and 74,311 shares).

Below the photo was the assertion I’d already read more times than I can remember: “This guy was was told by his Homeowners Association that he couldn’t fly the American flag in his yard.”

To read all the comments posted under the original post would take longer than a slow pass through War and Peace. It’s one example of many. The rumor continues to abound, inciting throngs of run-on sentences about all those flag-hating homeowners association communists out there probably using the scraps of old American flags as toilet paper and dust rags.

Well, enough is enough.

All that’s true about the above description is that a man did indeed paint the house like a flag (and the one next door completely black) to protest something, but not because the local homeowners association told him he couldn’t fly a flag out front. In fact, the homeowners association didn’t (and legally couldn’t) tell him not to fly the flag.

Exhibit A: There isn’t a homeowner’s association. It’s a Historic Preservation Society, but preservationists didn’t tell him not to fly a flag out front either.

Exhibit B: A federal law was passed way back in summer 2006, the aptly named Freedom to Display the American Flag Act, that expressly forbids a homeowners association or any other organized body from telling somebody they can’t fly a flag in front of their house.

Any other type of flag, however, like one for Wounded Warriors, can still rack up some fines for its owner, according to an Inquisitr report.

So why did these restored Victorian homes in Cambridge’s iconic historic district have to get the WTF treatment? The world has developer Branden Spear to thank.

Exhibit C: After more than a year of seeing the patriotic paint job he’d slapped on his investment property misrepresented all over the Internet, developer Branden Spear, who’s renovated several houses in the historic area, went quietly on the record with Roadside America about how the historic preservation rules in the district were being strictly enforced by area building inspectors.

“This whole battle was personal, with individuals abusing their power,” he’s quoted as saying. “The bottom line — I’m a landlord they hate.”

The costliest of mandates the inspectors wanted him to follow was the type of windows he used to replace all the old ones. The ones he’d installed were too modern, he told Forbes, so inspectors pointed him toward the expensive historic replica models.

“It would have cost one-third of the restoration budget just to install those windows,” he said.

Steaming, he pored over the building code and discovered a way to poke back. Nowhere did it say how and in what colors the houses could be painted.

So one house got slathered all in black and the one next door got the flag look, becoming the vehicle for years of patriotic propaganda memes.

At least Estately got it right when including the flag home in its “Four Homes Making Political Statements With House Paint” post. Also included: the North Carolina home spray-painted with “Screwed by the town of Cary” by its homeowner after enduring water runoff issues and zoning squabbles; the Montreal house decked out in red and white, with upside-down maple leafs all over, after its owner was slapped with a weapons rap and a bill for $1.5 million in back taxes; and, right across from the late Fred “God Hates Fags” Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, the already-iconic rainbow design that activist Aaron Jackson painted on his new house, which is now known as Equality House:

[Image courtesy of Roadside America]