There used to be a cute little house sandwiched between hulking corporate buildings in Seattle, Washington. This abode is now part of the city’s history due to the refusal of its original owner, Edith Macefield, to sell the property to developers. Edith turned down a one-million dollar proposal in 2006 and didn’t want her home to be demolished.
The real estate holdout became a worldwide sensation when she declined the offer to sell her house for commercial development in the city’s Ballard development. The construction firm decided to build the five-storey project around the 108-year-old farmhouse. Edith became something of a folk hero for not succumbing to the whims of a property developer.
Edith didn’t want the money which meant nothing to her. She also didn’t want to move to another place. A smaller buyout offered a couple of years ago was also not successful.
She had been living in the house for almost 60 years when condominiums and shopping malls for hi-tech industry workers began to spring up. Ballard used to be a location for modest family homes. By 2006, Edith’s home stood alone, with her neighbors long gone. A retail and office development, Ballard Blocks, was being constructed when the one million dollar offer came in addition to assistance with housing and healthcare.
Edith is often compared to the animated character in the Pixar movie “Up” which features an aging widower whose home is similarly surrounded by looming development. The hardheaded widower mirrors Edith’s constant refusal to prevent her house from being acquired. She is now considered as an inspirational symbol for her determination against corporate pressure. She died in 2008 and left the house to Barry Martin, the head of construction in neighboring construction site.
Barry opted not to sell the house to the developers but to a man who wanted to preserve Edith’s spirit of resistance. That man was Greg Pinneo who ran a real estate coaching firm. However, Pinneo’s failure to pay back taxes on the house forced him to put it back on the market. The house went through foreclosure auction in March 2015.
Macefield was born in Oregon in 1921 and served the military in England during World War 2. When officials discovered that she was not 18-years-old, Edith stayed in England where she took care of orphans. She moved back to the U.S. in 1952 to take care of her ailing mother.
These personal stories of Edith were corroborated by Martin through letters and photographs which were found after her death. According to Martin, Edith claimed that she had worked as a spy during the war, was sent to the concentration camp at Dachau, Poland, and then escaped.
Her legacy remains after her passing. A music festival was established in 2013 in Ballard to celebrate the steadfast attitude of the woman while exploring the current landscape of Seattle music.