This old lady refused to sell her home to developers
The Ballard Blocks building is blocky -- all straight lines, right angles and big, gray squares -- except for Edith Macefield's house.
It's a well-known story by now: Macefield refused $1 million for her 1,000-square-foot, circa 1900 house, so the developer of Ballard Blocks built the retail and office building around it, blank walls rising on three sides. Construction superintendent Barry Martinbefriended Macefield, who willed her house to him before she died June 15, at 86.
Ballard Blocks is done now, taking up most of the block between 14th and 15th avenues northwest, and Northwest 46th Street and Northwest Ballard Way. The Spandex set file in and out of LA Fitness next to Macefield's house. Carts overwhelmed the aisles of the new Trader Joe's on the other side of the building Saturday, a day after it opened.
And Macefield's house is still there -- ceramic cats, dogs and pigs in the window, light bulb on over the front door, a can of uncollected trash out front beside her uprooted handicapped parking sign, buds emerging on the tree between her sidewall and the white plywood fence that still serves as the border between her property and progress.
Across the street Tuesday afternoon, a worker used a pneumatic device -- which sounded like a jackhammer -- to drive fence posts along the edge of the vacant lot where the same developer plans to erect a similar building.
Reached Tuesday, Martin said he had put off thinking about the house and all of Macefield's possessions.
"Pretty soon I'm going to have to start making a decision on what I'm going to do," he said. "I'm not really ready for that, because what do you do with somebody else's stuff?"
Passers-by offered no opinion on Macefield's belongings, but did have some thoughts about the house itself.
"I don't think there's any reason to leave it here," said Kari Bisch, a Greenwood resident making her first excursion to the new Trader Joe's. "It's not what you'd call an interesting house."
But Mark Baum, a Ballard resident loading Trader Joe's purchases into his van, said demolition of the house would be a loss for Ballard Blocks.
"The only thing that makes this building interesting is the house in the middle of it," he said. "Turn it into something like a little gift shop for Christmas."
"Maybe a little restaurant," suggested Allan Schwartzman of Ballard as he passed by. "It's lived a long time. I think it can live a little longer."
Some people have proposed a park, but that's "ludicrous," given the location's continued proclivity for attracting vagrants, Martin said. "If you turned that into a park, it would turn into a public restroom."
The site really should become part of the new building, which was designed to expand onto it, he said. "Two or three times she was basically going to sell and move, and then I know the last time she ended up falling and breaking some ribs, and that kind of took the gas out of her, and then it was just too much work."