Signal v. Noise, a publication about the web
Edith Macefield, 1921-2008.
I’m surprised they let them go right up to her property line with those walls. All the places I’ve lived have zoning limits about where structures can be.
Brenton: My guess is that the zoning was changed.
This is 1 block from my church in Ballard.
They’re building a Trader Joe’s, parking lot and more retail space there.
I never met the lady but I had to chuckle every time I drove across the Ballard bridge to see this new towering structure with her tiny little nook carved out of it.
I admired her stubbornness. So many people have a price and will sell out. Many would have sold out for far less than she. Endearing.
Interestingly, before they cleared that property – it was a mess. It literally LOOKED like something from a World War II movie. Tons of garbage, a shattered concrete hull of an old building, overgrown – bombed out looking.
This article makes me wish I knew her. She was, after all, our neighbor.
It makes me really happy that the superintendent befriended her. So many would have become bitter and resentful . . . but he loved her.
Ballard is in the middle of massive gentrification . . . old classic buildings like the Denny’s and the Sunset bowl are being demolished to make way for condos, condos and more condos.
Already, the once quiet bar strip on Ballard Ave has been overrun with Belltown yuppies and spillover college jackasses.
No more quiet bearded, beer-loving, music-nerdy, aging indie rockers.
Well, at least, far fewer of them.
I’m glad to see our city growing but I am going to miss the old Ballard . . .
What a sweet article.
That is awesome. It just goes to show what folks are willing to do when something is important to them.
After the outcome of Kelo vs New London, I am surprised they didn’t try to get the house by way of eminent domain.
I love that picture. It perfectly captures and tells the story without needing any words. It nearly brought a tear to my eye.
@Drew Pickard Are you talking about Mars Hill Church?
Oh my God! It’s The Little House!!
Good for her to literally defend her position. The sad part of this story is that she looses no matter what – even though she gets to stay in her house she’s now living in a concrete box. I guess sometimes it’s better to know when to drop something. If it is for her… only she can answer that question.
@ Peter—she is no longer living. Just died of pancreatic cancer.
Good for her! It’s great to see someone stand up for themselves and what they believe in to the very end. I think this world could greatly benefit from more people willing to take a stand for what is right. Great story!! Very inspiring!!!
Mars Hill Ballard
@ Don That was my first thought too!
It reminds one of *batteries not included.
I’m curious to see who she left the property to in her will. Did she leave the land to a charity that could benefit from selling to the developer? Did she leave it to Martin, or the developer directly? Come up with some way to screw with the developer by leaving it to a strip club or something?
While I admire her perseverance by staying put, I feel bad that she spend the last years of her life being enclosed in a concrete box and having to deal with the incredible noise…
It’s great to see that this story has legs throughout the internets. I love the fact that someone who simply didn’t want to move was able to persevere.
I’m finding it really hard to say “good for her!” because of her stubbornness and resistance to change. Stubbornness is not an admirable trait. It hurts the stubborn person more than anyone else. I just wonder what was going on in her mind as she had to live with all of the construction going on around her.
The only thing that is 100% guaranteed in life is change. Why fight it? Adapt and you’ll find that life is so much easier.
On the flip side, maybe this was her way of adapting…it may not have bothered her. I’m curious to know her motives.
@ei8hty5 Maybe her motive was that it was her home and she didn’t want to leave. And I DO say “Good for her!”
@MattT – But why be so attached to something? It serves you no purpose.
Being attached to the outcome of events or to a physical object, such as a house, will only lead to disappointment, frustration, and a whole slew of negativity. Things happen all the time that are out of your control. Just roll with it, don’t resist it.
I’m sure most of you have seen this, but it could have been worse.
You’re assuming the thing she was so attached too was the physical object, rather than her principles.
@ei8hty5, when you’re 86 and in deteriorating health and mental capacity, who wants to give up the home they’ve lived in for years and years?
Maybe for you, change isn’t a big deal—for the elderly it can be a catastrophe. I’ve seen this first hand with my fiance’s grandmother, and the issues related to her move out of her home and into an assisted living facility. Even things as “small” as a one’s usual caregiver being on vacation can be enough to set off problematic episodes that become big deals. It’s one thing to say, “Just roll with it, don’t resist it.” It’s an entirely another thing to be able to do so.
@GeelWonder – You’re right. I am assuming that she was attached to the physical object of her home, but if she wasn’t, then why did she continue to live there? What principles, or concepts, was she holding on to? That she didn’t want big business to run her out of her home? Sure, I can understand that, but why do people feel the need to “keep things like they used to be in the old days?” How is that helping us grow and evolve as humans? We need to continue to move forward. I’m not trying to start conflict here, just looking at it from a different perspective. :)
@Benjy – Who said age should have anything to do with it? Your physical body may get older, but does your mind have to as well? I know this happens to many people as they age, but why? Are they adopting a commonly held belief that as you age, your mind must age as well? How can you continue to enjoy life as you get older when all you do is criticize, judge, compare, etc? I can only hope to strive to be more accepting and open as I grow older.
Anyone who doesn’t want to give up their home that they’ve lived in for years IS attached to it (or to something else), which is IMO not a good thing. The attachment to places or things will only disappoint when what you’ve created in your mind for the future doesn’t go to plan.
I’m trying to encourage people to welcome change in hopes that people will begin to actually do it. I didn’t say anything about it being easy. ;)
And to everyone, please don’t take my comments as attacking or accusatory. I truly mean no harm—I’m only trying to get people thinking.
@ei8hty5 – I’m always up for a contradictory opinion, but I do find it strange that you’re so attached to yours.
ei8hty5, I think one thing to keep in mind is the baseline physical and mental stresses of picking up, leaving, and settling in somewhere new. Where is she going to go? She doesn’t have any family. She was in her mid 80s.
She’s not going to want to spend whatever time she had left looking for a new home. Anyone who’s looked for a new home knows that is a labor intensive, time consuming, and stress-filled process.
Her best option was staying put in her current home. I don’t think it’s a matter of change or not change, it’s what made most sense for her. She liked her home, she didn’t want to deal with moving, the value of the money was less than the value of staying, so she stayed put.
The principle that money isn’t the thing of greatest value, and that it can’t buy everything.
In your terms, selling would just have traded her ‘unreasonable attachment’ to one physical object (her home) for another (the money).
Who said age should have anything to do with it? Your physical body may get older, but does your mind have to as well?
@ei8hty5, are you serious? You honestly think you can will your mind to not deteriorate? Why not just do the same for your entire body? The reality is that the brain is a made of biological materials just like the rest of the human body—it all breaks down as we age.
Here’s her house on Google Maps, blue car parked in front.
Benjy, you seem to miss the point entirely. My Mom is 76 years old and is as “young” as ever. She constantly reads and has a lust for learning. I bought her a computer a few years back and she now uses it constantly. She loves children. Her “mind” is not old. And if you don’t get what that means and want to argue that her “brain is getting old”, you may be getting “old” yourself, even if you are 20.
Now David, walk into your Mom’s house one day and tell her she has to move. When she says why, you tell her because a developer thinks his use for the land is more important than she thinks her home is. I bet she wouldn’t take $1MM to pack up and move either.
I would rather take the $1 mil then get booted for eminent domain. She was lucky, but I am sure most of your opinions would be different if the city took her property and left her with nothing when she had the option to take the mil.
@AC: The eminent domain clause in this case would probably go against GWB’s executive order of June 2006.
If she were so interested, she could then try and get the million dollars back from lawsuits.
I think the Lex Luther adage applies here.
I’m sure she was a funny, stodgy, stubborn old woman. And I’m sure my father-in-law could give her a run for her money.
But what if this was your mother? What if YOU grew up in this house? What if it was all you ever had? What if you weren’t as blessed with good health as others?
It’s interesting how someone would try and sound so educated and forward-thinking when they’re clearly so ignorant.
@ Geel Wonder
If you mean?
On June 23, 2006, the first anniversary of the original decision, President George W. Bush issued an executive order  instructing the federal government to use eminent domain ”...for the purpose of benefiting the general public and not merely for the purpose of advancing the economic interest of private parties to be given ownership or use of the property taken.”  However, eminent domain is often exercised by local and state governments; the order may thus have little overall effect.
The Last few lines sums that up… they could have, but after the reactions of the public to Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469, I doubt they would have.
Well if it’s on Wikipedia it must be true.
I interpret the executive order as a reaction to the Kelo decision (and similar stories outlined on e.g. 60minutes), and probably to help provide a legal framework on the policy of the US for future cases. I think you’d find the Supreme Court would no longer rule that way. That’s why he did it. Good stuff from GWB and he deserves credit for it.
The only thing that is 100% guaranteed in life is change. Why fight it? Adapt and you’ll find that life is so much easier.
That’s a blanket statement I find hard to stomach.
Using your logic I would enjoy higher gas prices and a struggling economy.
The context and cause surrounding a change is as important, if not more so, than being able and willing to adapt to it.
This woman was being encouraged to uproot because it was in the interests of someone else that probably doesn’t care about her.
I dunno, I feel like that kind of attitude, when presented as it was, leads to getting pushed around. Eventually you get pushed onto a bus…
...or onto a train car, God forbid. Change is not always good, and sometimes resisting is the only right course of action.
Don’t you have any rights to light in America?
I work two blocks from this development. It’s interesting to see all the development the center had to go through to make sure the little house was safe. Now that she died, it seems ironic.
Im interested to see what happens with the property…
It’s extraordinary! May not make sense – given an observer’s frame of reference – but always nice to see someone just doing it their own way, for whatever reason.
She wasn’t stubborn and she didn’t do it because it was too stressful to get up and move. The reason she did it was that this was her home, the one her mother died in. She wanted to die in her own home, on her own couch — the same couch her mother died on.
It wasn’t that complicated. It’s just what she wanted. To die in her own home, on her couch, the same way and place her mother passed.
There was a similar, if not the same situation along the M62 motorway in England, between Huddersfield and Manchester.
Had the motorway routed round it. For years everyone assumed the farmer had simply refused to seel up in the 60s, but apparently the decision to go round was due to the geometry of the land meant it was impossible to get the two carriageways together.
Lovely story about Ms Macefield though.
“Using your logic I would enjoy higher gas prices and a struggling economy.”
I think you’re pretty much summing up ei8hty5’s point there. America’s gas prices have been very low for a surprisingly long time. The aversion to carbon taxes, and mind bogglingly high energy consumption of americans is pretty much unsustainable. You’d do better to adapt ;-)
I’m not unsympathetic to Edith Macefield’s situation, and Good for Her for doing what she felt was right. But as a shining example of standing up for principles, it rings a little hollow for me. I’m not sure how much of a victory the result pictured above is.
She reminds me of one of my users: Stubborn, even when it hurts them the most.
George W Bush was stubborn too.
Stubbornness isn’t always a good thing. There’s a line between determination and ignorant stupidity.
In macefield’s case, her stubbornness is a symbol of fighting corporate America from a commoner, that’s why people sympathize. i applaud her for that.
What if she told her dying husband to stay “right here at home” untill she dies, untill they could re-unite? What if she wanted to stay there because everything (how the floor sounds when she walks on it, etc) reminds her of her love?
Why would anybody call that stubborn? It is a funy picture indeed, and maybe she was just plain stubborn, but who knows.
I find it bit weird that so many talk about Stubbornness in here.
my cousin is the architect in charge of the project that built around this lady. While the story speaks for itself, I can tell you that my cousin…a sweet girl in her own right, did everything she could to accomodate this lady. After if was apparent that she wasnt going to move, and the project was certainly moving forward, my cousin went over the top to make sure this lady always was looked after. This was no case of the man kicking homey. I also attend church nearby and certainly have no issue with the neighborhood getting a facelift. To think of this area in nostalgic terms is misguided…it’s an industrial dump that is turning a positive corner.
It’s good to hear everyone on the project looked after this lady. And in the end, she’s ended up giving the area something to be nostalgic about, and the tradeoff between lost space and having a distinctive development might turn out not too bad for the project overall.
this is really cool….
Don’t get me wrong, I admire the woman for “sticking to her guns,” but I can’t help but think that she was a little selfish . . . think of how much that money could have helped people in need. And you can tell she didn’t even think of anyone else by her quote: “Money doesn’t mean anything.” Tell that to people going hungry. What she was really saying was “The money is useless to me and I can’t be discomforted for someone else’s problems.” That’s totally within her right, and maybe I would have done the same in her position. But let’s not make her into a hero. She wasn’t being “principled” and she didn’t have some superior wisdom on money (again I point to her quote). She just did what was best for her at the time in her situation. Not strictly wrong, but hardly something to applaud. I don’t mean any disrespect, and I give my sincerest condolences to any loved ones she may have left behind.
i wonder if people would still treat her as a hero, if the construction around her was to build a community hospital for the needy.
It’s like a real life version of The Little House. I don’t see how anyone can begrudge her wanting to stay in her own home. I’m glad the architects found a way to accommodate her choice to live out the rest of her years in the home she loved.
so what your saying Fabio is that if someone pays you to take it up the a$$ you’d be willing to do it and give the money to the poor folks??
Jason co-founded Basecamp back in 1999. He also co-authored REWORK, the New York Times bestselling book on running a "right-sized" business. Co-founded, co-authored... Can he do anything on his own?
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