Meet the woman who refused to sell her home, and the mall that was built around it

A powerful and inspirational story for the ages.

In the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, there’s a huge shopping mall with a strange hole in the center of the building. Inside that gap sits a tiny house with an amazing story that some say inspired Pixar’s UP.


Edith Macefield wasn’t your average senior citizen. At 84 years old, she saw the quirky little neighborhood of Ballard becoming more and more gentrified. Old houses were being replaced with boutique shops and diners replaced with condos. When developers came knocking on her little two-story home with plans to bulldoze the surroundings and build a shopping mall, she refused to sell, even after they offered her a million dollars.


When asked why she wouldn’t sell, her answer was simple:

Where would I go? I don’t have any family and this is my home. My mother died here, on this very couch. I came back to America from England to take care of her. She made me promise I would let her die at home and not in some facility, and I kept that promise. And this is where I want to die. Right in my own home. On this couch.

The developers had no choice but to build around her, and as they did, she formed an unlikely friendship with the construction chief, Barry Martin. He found himself looking after Edith, picking up her medications, groceries, and eventually bonding with the stubborn woman. When he began to notice that Edith didn’t seem to keep any weight on, it was he who drove her to the hospital and sat with her when it was discovered that she had pancreatic cancer.




When Edith passed away at the age of 87, everyone discovered that she had done something completely unexpected: she had willed her home to Barry.


Now, Edith has become something of a folk hero, inspiring locals to get tattoos of the small house, a home that has now been lovingly remodeled, its leaning walls fixed and its windows replaced. Plans are in the works to raise the house and add a public square below, with flowing waters and a garden. Even a music festival has sprung up around Edith’s act of defiance.




Whether or not the tiny house in Ballard was the true inspiration for UP is debatable, but Edith Macefield’s story has left an inspiring legacy all on its own. To see Edith’s home for yourself, use this interactive map below to plot your own visit.

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This was originally written for Roadtrippers, a great resource for anyone interested in travel.
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