Where 19 flags fly proudly, every day
Curtis Rice quizzes his son, Dexter, about the flags of different countries. The 9-year-old has identified all 193 world flags a couple of times.

Where 19 flags fly proudly, every day
Nineteen flags fly daily atop the widow’s walk on the flat roof of a four-story home known as the Spite House in Rumford.

Where 19 flags fly proudly, every day
Curtis Rice shows his collection of 320 flags, 19 of which fly over the home on any given day, as son Dexter holds open the flags and daughter Annie peers from among them.

Where 19 flags fly proudly, every day
Dexter Rice looks on as flags fly atop the widow’s walk on the flat roof of a four-story home known as the Spite House in Rumford.

Where 19 flags fly proudly, every day
Curtis and Abbey Rice stand in front of their home with their children, from left, Vivian, Kathryn, Annie, Dexter and Betty.

RUMFORD — June 14 is Flag Day, one of four days set aside each year to honor our veterans and comrades in arms.

The most visible display of flags is at the home of Curtis and Abbey Rice at 20 Prospect Ave., where 19 flags, chosen from a collection of 320, fly each day atop the widow’s walk on the flat roof of a four-story home known as the Spite House.

The Rices have come up with various themes to display their flags. For example, during the Olympics, flags of countries leading in the medal count were flown.

For Thanksgiving, they flew the flags of Turkey, Greece, the American Indian movement flag, Massachusetts, and a Happy Thanksgiving flag.

They have flown flags of the allied nations of World War II. “It gave me an excuse to fly my Soviet Union flag, which you don’t get very often these days,” Curtis said.

Other flag themes include crosses, stars, European flags, Irish flags, flags from islands and holiday flags.

Abbey often has suggestions for which flags to fly but admits she never goes up to the widow’s walk. “I’m scared of heights,” she said.

Curtis has made some of his own flags, such as the question mark flag, which was flown with the American flag the day after the presidential election.

Abbey said it represented “uncertain territory.”

Curtis said, “It’s always nice when people understand what obscure thing I’m trying to say.”

Abbey said people also send flags to them. One of her old college roommates from California, who was originally from Lithuania, sent a Lithuanian flag after being assured it would be flown at the Spite House.

Curtis added, “If you send us a flag, we’ll fly it, as long as it’s not a Nazi flag, and probably not a Confederate flag.”

“If it’s in good taste, we’ll fly it,” Abbey said.

The Rices’ five children — Kathryn, 11, Vivian, 10, Dexter, 9, Betty, 8, and Annie, 5 — have really taken to the flags, especially Dexter and Betty.

“It’s not like I was trying to set up something super-educational for the kids, but …” began Curtis.

“… that’s what it’s turned into,” finished Abbey.

Dexter appeared at the family table wearing a hat with the symbol of the South Korean flag.

“He loves the flag of South Korea, for whatever reason,” his mother said. “He has a South Korean T-shirt.”

Dexter also watches the news whenever he notices the South Korean flag. Curtis added, “But he gets angry whenever he notices the North Korean flag.”

Curtis said, “Dexter can identify just about any world country flag.”

“But Betty is catching up,” added their mom.

Dexter said he got them all — 193 flags — correct a couple of times.

Abbey, a substitute teacher at Rumford Elementary School, said, “It’s one thing to be able to recognize a flag, but it’s another thing to be able to know where that country is in the world. It’s a way to teach about current events, as well.”

And when one of the Rice children has a birthday, they get to choose which flags are flown over the Spite House.

For a long time, Curtis said, he wanted to put up flags on the front of the house. Then, in August 2015, the flag-flying began.

“I saw a house in South Paris that had two big white flagpoles coming out the front and I thought, ‘That would be cool.’ Then, when I was trying to figure out how to do that, I looked up at the widow’s walk and said, ‘I could just put four there, one on each corner.'”

He continued, “Once I built the thing for that, I realized there’s enough space there, I could put in four more. Then you’ve got eight up there.”

So it went for quite a while with the eight flags on top. Then Curtis realized there was more room on the lower level.

“So now there are 19 up there,” Abbey said. “Now it’s known as the house with all the flags on it, adding a little bit of character to the town.”

Curtis joked that he really doesn’t even like flags that much.

“I just like flying flags,” he said. “I like the way it looks when you have a lot of flags flying on your house.”

With a few duplicates, Curtis estimated his collection of flags has exceeded 320, neatly and systematically hanging in the room leading to the widow’s walk.

Abbey said, “Most of the flags (3-by-5-foot polyester) he buys are really cheap. He just buys them on Amazon for $5.”

Curtis encourages people to fly flags. “And not just American flags. There are great flags you can fly for your heritage, your home state or country. And the more, the better.”

He said he tries to fly flags every day. “It makes me sad when I come home and don’t see flags on the house. Because you can, so why not?”

Curtis said the flags are changed every four or five days.

“I have enjoyed being able to fly tons of flags,” he said. “Some people think less is more, but I obviously don’t. People should fly more flags.”

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How the Spite House got its name

According to homeowner Curtis Rice, the people who sold them the 1901 house in 2003 said a man in town had two sons. He left the older son a beautiful, nine-fireplace house and left the younger son the adjacent lot and money to build his own home.

The younger son was bitter about this and so purposely built a house that was tall and skinny so it would block his brother’s view of the Rumford Falls. That is why the house was known locally as the Spite House.


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