Just Around the Corner: Edith Macefield House

This house is like the one in the Disney animated movie, Up. In that movie, an elderly widower refuses to sell his abode to a developer.

The widower latches balloons to his house, and the audience watches it float up to the sky, to new adventures.

In reality: This century-old house was owned by a widow, Edith Macefield. She bought it in 1952 for $3,750. Two years later, she had it paid off. She was 84 years old when a developer offered her $1 million. She refused.

She didn’t latch balloons to the house and float away. Instead, she died of cancer on the couch two years later. She was buried at nearby Evergreen-Washelli cemetery.

The house went to a construction worker who had befriended her the last few years of her life. He had bought her groceries, got her prescriptions filled, drove her to doctor appointments, and made her dinners. No doubt she told him snapshot stories of her life: She was born in Oregon, eventually moving to Europe.  She may have been a spy during World War II. At one point, she was held in a concentration camp, where she escaped with a number of Jewish children. She claimed to have had a conversation with Hitler. She definitely knew many languages, including French and German. And she had married four times, having one child, a son who died at age 13 from meningitis. She was a writer, a saxophone player, an autograph hound.

When she passed, her friend sold the 1,000-square-foot house to a realtor for $310,000. Since then, the title changed hands to other owners.

Today, the house stands abandoned, with no clear plans on its future. A five-story gray monolith called “Ballard Blocks” looms on three sides of the house. An LA Fitness gym occupies the building on one side; a Ross clothing store stands on the other side.

If Edith were still alive, imagine seeing her on the front steps, bellowing out her saxophone and telling her stories to her new neighbors.

The house is located at 1438 N.W. 46th St., in Seattle.

— Story and photos by David Carlos

Mountlake Terrace resident David Carlos often submits photos and videos profiling interesting places nearby.

 

11 Replies to “Just Around the Corner: Edith Macefield House”

  1. Over the years I’ve taken family members and out-of-town visitors to Edith’s house to share her story. I even told the story to a film maker I met in an Airporter as we rode to Paris’ Orly airport. (I don’t even remember how the subject came up!) He was captivated and told me he would find out more about the story and visit the next time he was in Seattle. Usually there are at least a dozen balloons tied and fluttering on the fence in front of her house and there was a time when they were going to make it into a little museum but … who knows if it will last much longer. I haven’t visited in a few years so I’m so glad to read in this article how the “little house that Edith bought” continues to stand as a testament to a woman’s determination to ensure her last years would be spent in her own home. Brava!

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  2. A great house for a single person with an artists loft? Sign me up! But of course what cost 3K somethingthen, now costs $500K. Good for Edith! what an interesting story about this extroardinary lady! With the monoliths on each side….lots of shade plants!
    It would be cool if someone could make it a little home again, even in a canyon…it could be quite unique..which it already is.

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  3. The first half of the story about a woman’s stubbornness is a great story. The second half of the story where the friend cashed it out, and now it’s a neighborhood eyesore… is not so much. I always wondered how much “joie de vie” there was living blocked in by cement walls.

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    1. Sounds like Edith’s “construction worker friend” made a hefty profit for his kindness. The beauty of Edith’s story was then muddled in greedy gains. Tear it down, develop it, start a scholarship to honor Edith. But by all means, put up a beautiful plaque to memorialize Edith’s story.

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      1. Edith’s caretaker in her later years was not just a “construction worker,” he was the superintendent of the commercial development project that surrounds her house. Please read a more in-depth piece on this story; Wikipedia is a good place to begin. Edith left her house to Barry Martin in her will, and there is no evidence of any coercion or bad faith involved in her decision.

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        1. It’s too bad she didn’t leave it to the city as a pocket park. Everybody wants to believe a Disney Channel story. The derelict house that sitting there now makes it a little bit more complicated story and very sad.

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        2. Brian, it wasn’t the city that helped her when she needed help, it was Barry Martin. Edith had no (known) family left and apparently few friends, none of whom were helping. She had a simple wish– to stay in her home and die there, and that wish was fulfilled. Her decision to bequeath her house to Mr. Martin was entirely rational, and we shouldn’t be criticizing it or the outcome.

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        3. Why are we debating this? Let’s just enjoy a beautiful story, respectfully and gracefully. Loved the UP movie.

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  4. Rodger, respectfully I am not criticizing Edith’s decision to hold her ground, but I am criticizing what has happened to the house since then. When you say “we” shouldn’t be criticizing, I think it’s more prudent for you speak for yourself. I am criticizing what happened afterwards and it isn’t a happy ending as the house is eyesore in the community. She has passed on and her legacy is a derelict house.

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    1. We have enough issues to deal with right here in Edmonds. Let’s let the good citizens of Ballard fret about Edith’s house.

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