Fact Check

American Flag House

Rumor: Photograph shows a house painted in protest by its owner after he was barred from displaying a U.S. flag.

Published May 20, 2013


Claim:   Photograph shows a house painted in protest by its owner after he was barred from displaying a U.S. flag in his yard.


Example:   [Collected via Facebook, May 2013]

I have received an email that stated a man was told by his homeowner's association that he could not fly his flag. It showed what he
'did about it', and the house was beautifully painted like an American flag:

This guy was told by his Homeowners Association that he couldn't fly the American flag in his yard ...


Origins:   Recent years have seen a number of "viral" news stories about homeowners (often military personnel or veterans) who have run afoul of local ordinances or homeowners association (HOA) rules that

prevented them from displaying U.S. flags on their property, such as the 2009 case of Van T. Barfoot and the 2013 case of Brandon Weir. Usually such problems arise not because of a general prohibition on the flying of U.S. flags, but because some facet of a particular flag's display violates an existing rule: the flag is too large, the flagpole from which it is flown is too high, or the flag is attached to a portion of a home (such as a balcony or stairway) which is required to be kept free from adornment.

In May 2013 a photograph (displayed above) of a home with its exterior painted in the pattern of an American flag (white stars amidst a blue field adjacent to red and white horizontal striping) was circulated on the Internet, with accompanying text identifying the paint scheme as one the homeowner resorted to after being told by his HOA "that he couldn't fly the American flag in his yard." Although the picture is real and the unusual paint job it depicts was something undertaken as a form of protest, the true backstory had nothing to do with a homeowner's being barred from displaying a U.S. flag in his yard.

The American flag house pictured above is located in Cambridge, Maryland, and its owner, Branden Spear, gave it that distinctive paint job after being angered that his restored Victorian property was declared by building inspectors to be non-compliant with historical code:

Homeowners who choose to paint their houses with non-traditional colors risk running afoul of their neighbors and local politicians, but owner and contractor Branden Spear never set out to paint his restored Victorian properties with colors that were out of the norm. But when local building inspectors told him that the windows he chose to restore the home weren't up to historical code, he got angry. "It would have cost one-third of the restoration budget just to install those windows," says Spear. Then he realized the building code said nothing about what colors the old Victorians should be painted. So as a show of his anger, and as a protest against what he says are unfair regulations, he painted one home all black, and the adjacent home with an American flag theme. They've become something of a tourist attraction since, and even though Spear is still at odds with local government officials, he has proven one point — that paint and color can also be used as protest.

In June 2014, Florida news outlets reported a case of a resident of Bradenton who had also painted his house in the style of a U.S. flag as a protest over the city's code compliance enforcement:

A prestigious road in Bradenton is now home to a very patriotic house.

Brent Greer, who lives on Riverview Boulevard, recently painted the outside of his house red, white and blue. Greer said he decided to turn his home into the American flag to send a message.

Greer grew up in the 100-year-old home and now lives there with his wife and seven adopted children. He said they changed the color of their house after getting into a dispute with the city's code enforcement.

A few months ago, code enforcement officers said they went to the home acting on an anonymous tip.

"Late February, we received a complaint about a dead Christmas tree on the balcony," said Volker Reiss, Community Services and Code Compliance Manager for City of Bradenton.

Reiss said his officers asked the family to remove it and they complied.

Greer said to his surprise, they were told about more violations.

The city sent Greer a two page letter, listing several violations at the home. Some of the issues were about missing window screens, painting, pressure washing, loose railings, and trash on the property.

Greer said while everything was upsetting, one complaint made him furious. He said he was told his home's exterior painting was not up to city standards.

The Greers do not live in a deed-restricted community. He said he feels like he's being treated as if he does.

Last updated:   5 June 2014


    Giuffo, John.   "Amazingly Colorful Homes."

    Forbes.   24 January 2012.

    Smith, Summer.   "Manatee Man Paints American Flag on Home During Dispute with City."

    Bay News 9.   4 June 2014.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.