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A decade after her death, Edith Macefield’s Ballard house will be restored

Edith Macefield's house, dwarfed by Ballard Blocks (Photo by Sean_Marshall, CC Images)
LISTEN: A decade after her death, Edith Macefield's Ballard house will be restored

I’ve been covering this story of Edith Macefield’s House for 12 years and it just keeps on trucking.

But let’s start a the beginning and catch you up.

In 2006, 84-year-old Edith Macefield made international headlines when she turned down a million-dollar offer from developers to bulldoze her house so they could build a new shopping center called Ballard Blocks in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. Most people saw Macefield as a hero, someone who stood up to development and change, but in truth, she was old and sick and didn’t want to relocate. So the 108-year-old house that Macefield was born and raised in remained and a five-story cement building was constructed around her, dwarfing the little house and making it a tourist attraction.

Two years later, Edith passed away and she left her house to Barry Martin, the construction superintendent on the project who became her friend and sole caretaker. She instructed him to sell it to the highest bidder and he did in 2009.

Now, here’s where the story gets complicated. The house changed ownership several times and as the years have passed, it has become more and more damaged and dilapidated.

Earlier this week there was talk of the house being demolished. But it turns out that’s not true, and there’s finally some good news for the little house with a story the world has fallen in love with.

Craig Ramey is the managing director of Regency Centers, the company that bought Ballard Blocks and Macefield’s house at the end of January.

“We have never had plans to demolish it and don’t plan on demolishing it. Our plan is to have it be part of the overall project and activate the house, upgrade the house and find a way to include it in the overall project,” he said.

As far as what the house will be used for.

“We’re not sure, we’re reaching out to the community, the neighbors, the existing tenants and trying to find the best use for the building. We could retrofit it and upgrade it and have it be a community gathering space, you could have popup retail in there that would rotate, you could have an ice cream shop, an eatery, wine tasting. You could have it used for the community for exhibits for art. So many possibilities and we’re just trying to find the right fit.”

I’m sure this will be a tremendous relief for the community who has always been extremely outspoken about preserving the house, including a group of people in Ballard who got Edith Macefield house tattoos.

Across from Ballard Blocks, they’re building Ballard Blocks 2, another big shopping center that will include a PCC grocery store. Ramey expects that project and Macefield’s house will be complete by the end of this year or in early 2019.

This Saturday, people are repeating an old tradition of heading down to Edith Macefield’s house to tie a balloon on the fence. Anyone is welcome.

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