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Edith Macefield: Legend

Posted by Johnine Larsen on May 22, 2014
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Remember that scene from the Disney/Pixar movie Up? The beloved old man, pressured by developers to sell his home and move? He thwarts their plans with a few thousand helium balloons, and the story turns out happy.

Edith Macefield inspired that story. Edith Macefield of our very own Ballard, Washington.

She had lived in Ballard for fifty years, in a little house on Northwest 46th Street. The house had two bedrooms and two stories, built in 1900. But in 2006, commercial developers asked Edith to move. They were building a new block of concrete and commercial buildings, and they wanted the homeowners out.

800px-Edith_Macefield's_houseBut Edith didn’t want go. Her 106-year-old house was iconic. And besides, moving was too much work. The developers offered her $1 million for her little house, but she still refused.

“I don’t want to move. I don’t need the money,” she told the Seattle P-I. “Money doesn’t mean anything.”

So the developers built around her. They modified the plans so the commercial buildings still went up, but Edith’s property went untouched. As construction rumbled around her, Edith stayed at home.

“I went through World War II, the noise doesn’t bother me,” she said. “They’ll get it done someday.”

Five-story concrete walls rose around her, and Edith found herself sandwiched between an LA Fitness and a Trader Joe’s. But she stayed in her house until she died in 2008, at the age of 86.

800px-Edith_Macefield's_House-2Edith’s house and legacy remain. Her story is rumored to have inspired the movie Up, and it’s a believable rumor, too. Disney tied hundreds of balloons to her house to promote the movie and honor Edith’s stubbornness. Many Seattle locals see her as a champion of “the little guy,” standing up to corporate America; a Ballard tattoo artist made a design based on her house, and so far, he’s inked that signed onto different ten people. A Macefield Music Festival also had its first annual iteration last October, “celebrating the steadfast attitude of the dearly departed Ms. Macefield.”

Edith Macefield showed the value of a home. Money didn’t matter to her—her home did. She had memories there, and she felt comfortable there. It was hers, and she wasn’t going to let any amount of money or pressure change that. As real estate agents, we respect that. We want all our clients to find that same sense of attachment.

Edith’s house isn’t the only holdout or “nail house,” although hers is one of the most famous. For examples of other homeowners who picked their property over wads of cash, check out this and this.