Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
December 6, 2023 ·  4 min read

The 84-year-old woman who rejected a one million dollar relocation offer, forcing shopping mall owners to build around her home

The late Edith Macefield may have left this world in 2008, but her memory is still living on in Seattle. She did something remarkable, holding onto what she loved with her all her heart, no matter the cost. Her home in the Ballard neighborhood, Seattle, got in the way of developers looking to erect a shopping mall. The developers offered her a jaw-dropping one million dollars to relocate ahead of demolition.

Without hesitation, Edith rejected the offer [1]. Value is a perception, and one million dollars didn’t even begin to sum up how much the tiny old home meant to her.

The company had to settle for the least they could get; building around the house

A lot of homeowners in the neighborhood were being nicely compensated for giving up their homes. Edith would accept no such compensation. Boutiques, modern supermarkets, bakeries, and condos were springing up all around her little home.

After a lot of negotiation, the commercial developers had to go back to the drawing board and make some changes to their intended architecture. It would have to accommodate Macefield’s 1000 square foot two-story bungalow and the small yard around it. They purchased all the land surrounding the house, and eventually, the large mall was erected.

Edith’s cute house became a sort of retro décor in the center of an urban edifice [2].

Even on her dying bed, Edith still had to secure the future of her home

A couple of years before she passed away in 2008, Edith became great friends with Barry Martin, a construction chief who worked at the site next to Edith’s home. It was a highly unlikely friendship since Edith was assumed to be averse to development, and Barry was associated with the developers. Martin became a close confidant of Edith’s and he took good care of her. When she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he drove her to the hospital and back whenever she had an appointment.

Before her passing at the age of 86, she willed her home to Barry. She believed he would ensure the house would stay on and stand tall.

Edith’s situation may have even been an inspiration for the 2009 movie,‘Up’. The movie’s beloved character, 78-year-old Carl, found himself in a similar situation and flew away in his balloon-powered house. Though the production of the movie began 2 years before, the stories are eerily similar.  This is why a bunch of lovely, colorful balloons at one time sat on top Edith’s little home. This was initially done in 2009 as part of a promotional stunt for the movie, and many passersby added to the count, by tying balloons to the fence.

The remodeling of the real-life ‘flying house.’

Barry Martin wanted to turn the home into a memorial for Edith, but his plans fell through. He had to put up the house for auction. A real estate company known as Reach Returns, now called Cor Company won the auction. They set to work remodeling the house, with plans to convert it into a coffee and pastry shop. The company re-did the walls and replaced the old windows.

Somewhere along the line, their plans fell through as well. They realized that the cost of making the house habitable again was way too high, and it just wasn’t a feasible project in general.

Edith’s house was foreclosed years later due to the $300,000 owed in lien taxes. An investment management company got a hold of it at that point, but it was a major issue selling the house. No one wanted to pay the cost of the home, listed at $170,000 along with the $300,000 spill over. It became a liability and was slated for demolition.

OPAL community attempted a rescue.

In 2015, a non-profit housing organization, OPAL Community Land Trust stepped in to save Edith’s home [3]. They set up a crowdfunding page in a solid move to raise enough money to clear all the debts on the house [4]. They planned to move the home to Orcas Island, Washington, intact and sans balloons (in case it decided to fly on transit). The house was to be sold at a very affordable price to a low-income family on the Island.

Unfortunately, they couldn’t raise enough money to clear the debts on Edith’s house. The project wasn’t successful, but they had great intentions.

However, despite any demolition rumors hovering around the space, it’s incredible how this cozy house, at the ripe old age of 115, is still sitting strong and bold in the belly of a commercial beast. According to housing reports in April, 2018, the Macefield house has refused to back down [5].