Remembering Seattle's Edith Macefield

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Edith Macefield of Seattle's Ballard neighborhood passed away this week. She refused offers of big money to leave her tiny house and make way for a big development. In the process, she became something of a folk hero. Michele Norris talks to Barry Martin, who was Macefield's friend.


And now a very different kind of housing story. We learned this week of the death of Edith Macefield in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood. She was 86 years old and something of a local folk hero for resisting the large commercial development that took over her street. Macefield refused offers of nearly a $1 million for the tiny cottage she had bought in the 1950s. Instead, Edith Macefield watched as Seattle grew around her, literally. In the last two years, five story concrete walls grew on three sides of her 31 x 50 foot lot. Strangely, Barry Martin, the senior superintendent of the development that nearly forced her out, became her friend and her caretaker. He says she was an animal lover.

Mr. BARRY MARTIN (Senior Superintendent): So if there was birdseed on the sidewalk, we knew she was up and she was fine. Well, if by 11:00 there wasn't birdseed on the sidewalk, I'd go over and knock on the door and holler through the mail slot and ask her if she was okay.

NORRIS: Martin soon began taking Macefield to the hairdresser, then to doctors' appointments, he even cooked three meals a day for her in recent months. Martin said she didn't stay in her house out of principle.

Mr. MARTIN: We all know that eventually it'll get consumed like everything else. She said that it didn't really matter, because 20 years from now she said, this building that they're building around me, they're going to tear it down and build a new one.

NORRIS: Edith Macefield just wanted to die in the house where her mother had died, on the couch where her mother had died. And on Father's Day, she did. No word on what's next for the little house she left behind.

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