In Ballard, Seattle, you’ll find a massive shopping mall built around a small two-story house. How did that happen? Surley the developer offered enough money to buy it. In a culture where money is king, some among us place their values, in this case, loyalty, above cash.
Edith Macefield took care of her mother in the house where she grew up. When her mother died, Edith stayed put.
Barry Martin was the construction manager for the developer replacing old homes and diners with boutique shops and condos. When Edith was offered almost a million dollars for her little house, well above market value, she said, “No, thank you.” She refused to give in to redevelopment. Instead wished to be left alone to attend to her little garden.
“Where would I go? I am 84 years old. I don’t have any family, and this is my home. My mother died here, on this very couch. I came back to take care of her. She made me promise I would let her die at home and not in some facility, and I kept the promise. And this is where I want to die. Right in my own home. On this couch.”
The developer had no choice but to build around her house. Soon, Barry found himself looking after this stubborn old woman in the little house. He stayed after work and helped Edith pick up her medications and groceries, did her laundry, and listened to her stories. It was Berry who noticed she’d grown dreadfully thin. He drove Edith to the hospital and sat with her when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. When Edith passed away at 87, she surprised everyone when they learned she’d willed her home to Barry.
Edith Wilson Macefield died on June 15, 2008, on the same couch where her mother had died years earlier. She was buried in Evergreen Washelli Cemetery with her mother.
After her death, Edith became something of a legend, inspiring locals to get tattoos of her little house. The city discussed plans to fix up the house and add a public square with flowing waters and a garden making it a Seattle Landmark. That didn’t happen.
In an interview (2006) with the Times, Edith said she didn’t intend to be a folk hero; she just wanted to stay in her house.
In 2015, Paul Thomas, the new property owner, wanted to sell the property. Unwilling to demolish the little house, he looked for a nonprofit to move the house. About Edith’s legacy and the hundreds of balloons tied to the fence around the house, Paul said,” The house really will float away, but not by air. I can’t possibly imagine a more wonderful ending for this chapter of the Edith Macefield story.”
As of 2019, Edith’s house remained in place, a roadside attraction. The little house was the inspiration of the Disney movie “UP.”