The Holdout House

Edith - The Holdout House

People who refuse to sell their house are called holdouts, and Edith Macefield was perhaps the most famous holdout in America. When a construction company offered to buy her house in the Ballard neighborhood in Seattle, she simply refused to sell. Her conviction to not give up her home made her a lasting symbol of standing one’s ground.

Edith Macefield was first approached by the construction company in 2005 when the Ballard neighborhood stared to see some growth in population. Mrs. Macefield was offered $750,000 for her house that was appraised at $120,000. Her home of 50 years was intended to be demolished to make space for a new neighborhood shopping mall. Edith Macefield refused the money.

The construction company went ahead with the plans anyway, and started to build the mall around her house, surrounding it from three sides. They were hoping to buy her house eventually and included her property in the mall layout plans. The developers made another offer to Mrs. Macefield, this time raising it to one million dollars. Again, she said no.

As the construction continued around Edith Macefield’s house, she started to get used to the noise and bustle of the construction crew. She even enjoyed small conversations with the construction workers while she was getting her mail or morning newspapers. She warmed up to the project superintendent Barry Martin, who starting making regular visits to her house to make sure she was ok.

By this time, Edith Macefield was 85 years old, and while her will was strong, her health was frail. Soon Martin started taking Ms. Macefield to doctors’ appointments. He would also cook her meals and help with simple household chores. They developed a friendship that allowed Martin to get to know her better. He learned that Mrs. Macefield had been a cousin of Benny Goodman, and had enjoyed playing Jazz on a saxophone herself. He also found out why she had turned down the offer of one million dollars – because she had no heirs, and she wanted to spend the last years of her life in her own comfortable home.

When Edith Macefield died in 2006 at 86 years old, Barry Martin was her closest friend. She left her house and everything in it to Martin, to do whatever he saw fit. Martin did not have the heart to demolish the house, but sold it instead. To this day, the little house stands, surrounded by the Ballard neighborhood mall. Edith Macefield’s spirit and determination remain widely known and respected.



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