By now, you’ve probably heard the story of the spunky octogenarian who refused a million-dollar buyout offer from a real estate developer in 2006 so that she could continue to live — and die — in her longtime home, an unassuming little bungalow in Ballard, a former Scandinavian seafaring community in Seattle that’s dark blue collar has faded to white in recent years.
“I don’t want to move. I don’t need the money. Money doesn’t mean anything.”
The story of said octogenarian, Edith Macefield, is one of legend. She stood her ground as construction commenced on a massive retail development that dwarfed her modest abode, built several years before Ballard was annexed into Seattle in 1907.
Within a couple of years, Macefield, kooky old real estate holdout-turned-bona fide folk hero, had new neighbors, and close ones at that: Trader Joe's, LA Fitness and the UPS Store. These new neighbors welcomed Macefield by embracing her in a giant, concrete hug.
“I’m no hero. I just want to be left alone.”
Since 2008, the year Macefield died, as she wished, in her “spite house” at the age of 86 from pancreatic cancer, her celebrity has grown even greater. Her slightly surly iron will has spawned an annual music festival and a Pacific Northwest tattoo craze to rival the one borne of the hideous old carpeting at Portland’s airport.
And then, in 2009, Disney/Pixar’s “Up” was released. While the animated film wasn’t inspired by Macefield's story, the plot loosely mirrored it, which, in turn, brought greater interest to the funny little house on NW 46th Street. It was even festooned with balloons as part of a publicity stunt promoting the film.
A home forsaken but certainly not forgotten
In recent years, the long-abandoned home has come perilously close to meeting the wrecking ball.
Well-meaning owners have come and gone, the most recent being a mother and daughter team who wanted to transform the space into a dessert and coffee joint called Edith Pie. However, bringing the house up to current commercial code proved to be a financial impossibility. And so, the Macefield House was once again placed in bank-owned limbo. (A bit of backstory: With no living relatives, Macefield bequeathed her home to the development’s construction chief, Barry Martin, who also served as her caretaker, chaperone and closest confidant in her final years. Martin, who went on to pen a memoir about his oddball friendship with Macefield, sold the house in 2009 to help pay for his children’s college tuitions.)
Needless to say, the outlook for the Macefield house has been admittedly grim in recent months.
Yet, as made clear in a much-anticipated announcement made yesterday, it would appear that there will be a happy, Disney-esque ending after all.
The Edith Macefield house will be saved.
However, there's one not-so-insignificant thing worth pointing out — and this is sure to make some folks who embraced Macefield’s hell no, I won’t go ethos unhappy: the house, in its entirety, will be moved.
And it won’t be moved down the street or a couple of neighborhoods over. It won't even stay in King County. Ballard’s iconic holdout house will be relocated more than 100 miles away to the San Juan Islands. Yes, those San Juan Islands. Here — in the village of Eastsound on Orcas Island, to be exact — it will be repurposed and reborn as affordable housing by OPAL Community Land Trust.
While it would be nice to think that the structure will be transported to Orcas Island via hundreds of balloons, it will make the journey by truck and barge. Whatever the case, it will float.
"It will be renovated and surrounded by trees, instead of towering cement walls,” said Paul Thomas, the home’s listing broker, during yesterday’s news conference. “As we have learned, it's not economically feasible to continue to use this house in its current location. I know that we're all really disappointed that the house needs to be moved, but really what it came down to was a choice between demolishing the house and moving the house.”
Kickstarting a new beginning
The house, which was donated to OPAL Community Land Trust following a competitive proposal process, isn’t out of the woods quite yet.
While the nonprofit has secured land in Eastsound on which to build a foundation, place the home and make it available to local families in need of affordable housing, it needs funds to cover the relocation and restoration costs. The total amount needed: $205,000 by Sept. 15. If the money is not raised by that time, the home will be demolished.
Judging from how OPAL’s just-launched Kickstarter campaign is going thus far, raising the needed funds shouldn’t be an issue. (Knock of virtual wood).
And 26-year-old OPAL, which stands for “Of People and Land,” is confident that transporting the beloved house will go off without a hitch as the organization has previously moved five endangered houses to Orcas Island, home to one of Washington’s highest affordable housing gaps, from the Seattle area by barge via the Salish Sea — a form of whole house recycling. Despite its advanced age and that it has sat vacant since 2008, the century-old structure is reportedly in good, barge-ready condition.
In total, OPAL has moved 10 renovation-ready houses and transformed them into homes for middle-class islanders. The organization currently provides 5 percent of the painfully beautiful island’s full-time residents, largely teachers and small business owners, with affordable housing. The annual income cap for a family of four to be eligible to purchase an OPAL house is $52,950, according to KUOW.
Up, up and away
Under a community land trust model in which the land itself is owned by the nonprofit and leased to homeowners, Edith Macefield’s former home will remain affordable for future generations.
Reads OPAL’s “Float the Edith Macefield ‘Up House’ to a New Family” Kickstarter campaign page:
Edith Macefield lived out her wish to remain in her home until she died. You can keep Edith’s ideal of the importance of a home alive, and make a difference for a family who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford a home, by making a donation to support this project.
We believe that bringing the house to Orcas Island is the right thing to do. It will help a family own a house and provide the stability that comes with ownership, honor Edith’s legacy of the importance of home, and preserve the house itself for generations to come.
We are thrilled to be taking care of Edith Macefield’s ‘Up’ house as it floats to a new family, and hope Edith’s story will highlight the ongoing importance of homes for stable families and communities throughout our state and country.
Thomas, a no B.S. kind of guy who has considered himself a steward of the house over the past several months, tells KUOW: “My entire focus has been figuring out how to ensure the house won’t get torn down. I think if I allowed that house to be torn down, I would probably get lynched. There is so much attachment to that house.”
“The thing that has been a payback for me is watching little kids, watching their eyes get huge and say, ‘It’s the ‘Up’ house. Seeing that over and over — that is really heartwarming.”
Feel compelled to join in on all this heartwarming-ness?
Consider pitching in to help cover the Macefield house’s moving/restoration costs. Kickstarter perks include balloons stamped with an illustration of the house and the chance to have your name placed within a time capsule that will be sealed within a wall of the house prior to its restoration. Also: good karma for eternity.
Via [KUOW], [KING 5]
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