The Story Of The Woman Who Turned Down $1 Million For Her Historic Seattle Home
A quaint Seattle, Wash. home is legendary thanks to the then-84-year-old former owner’s strong will and resolve.
Edith Macefield, now deceased, is a legend in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood after refusing a $1 million offer from developers to sell her home so that a mall could be put up in its place. Macefield, without much thought, declined multiple offers, so when it came time to build the mall, developers were forced to build around her home.
Many thought that what Macefield did was noble because she was standing up to development, but the woman herself said she wasn’t trying to make a statement by refusing the money.
“Where would I go?” asked the elderly woman when she refused the offer. “I don’t have any family and this is my home. My mother died here, on this very couch. I came back to America from England to take care of her. She made me promise I would let her die at home and not in some facility, and I kept that promise. And this is where I want to die. Right in my own home. On this couch.”
Barry Martin, chief developer on the mall project, was the one who tried to get Macefield to sell her house in the first place, but after she refused and they decided to build around her, Martin struck up an unusual companionship with the woman.
"It was simple stuff in the beginning," said Martin. "It wasn’t anything. She asked me to take her to get her hair done ... and then, you know, I would stop over and visit with her."
"One day I stopped over after work, and her [oven] buzzer goes off, and her dinner’s ready in the oven," recalled Martin. "I put my hand on the top of the stove, which is as hot as the inside because this oven is from 1950. So, then I tried to talk her into getting a microwave because I thought that that would be better for her ... but that didn’t work."
Martin quickly realized that Macefield could not be talked into doing anything that she didn’t want to do, and soon after, the friendship between the two blossomed, ultimately resulting in Martin's becoming her primary caregiver up until her 2008 death at the age of 87.
"A lot of people still think she did it to stand up against the man," said Martin. "But the only reason she wasn’t moving was because she had nowhere else to go. Money didn’t mean anything. She didn’t have a family. In the end, she didn't really have anybody. She had me, I guess."
In the end, Macefield gave Martin power of attorney and made sure that he would take control of the home when she died. Today, the home has been sold to a real-estate coaching firm for $310,000 and will be kept as a landmark despite having renovations done.
Martin has published a book about his relationship with Macefield, who herself has an incredible life story that involves friendships with famous people, an escape from a concentration camp, and being a spy in World War II. The book was released in October of last year.
Many have claimed that the story of Macefield’s home served as inspiration for the 2009 Disney Pixar movie "UP," which went on to gain an Oscar nomination for best picture, but those claims have never been confirmed.