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The Little House In Ballard
October 15, 2007 5:29 AM   Subscribe

Edith Macefield is stubborn. Man, is she stubborn. That's what her mother told her when she was a little girl back in the 1920s. It's a characteristic that has followed her all her life. Now that unrelenting stubbornness has won the 86-year-old woman admirers throughout Ballard. Macefield refused to sell her little old house where she has lived since 1966 to developers, forcing them to build an entire five-story project, which includes a grocery store, fitness club and parking garage, around her. She was offered $1 million to leave. She turned it down flat.
Old Ballard's new hero
Newsfilter, local interest filter, too, but, oh, man, it lifts the spirits. Her's is the last house on the block, the one in which she grew up, the one her mother died in. She is going to be surrounded by five storys of shopping mall but she isn't moving. It's like The Little House come to life. And bonus points: Mike's Chili Parlor, the other hold out on the same block, is the bomb. So you get two Old Lost Seattle treasures in one post.
posted by y2karl (81 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
They didn't know they were dealing with a STAUNCH character. S-T-A-U-N-C-H!
posted by hermitosis at 5:32 AM on October 15, 2007 [6 favorites]


Ouch--five stories, to be sure.
posted by y2karl at 5:36 AM on October 15, 2007


And crap--I can't read! Not the house she was born in. Well, that was something someone told me last night. But still.... Oh, man, is my face red. *slinks off in shame*
posted by y2karl at 5:38 AM on October 15, 2007


Some of the construction workers at the site look out for her, particularly the project's senior superintendent, Barry Martin. He drives her to her doctor appointments and to get her hair done. He brings her a hamburger for lunch and hangs around at dinner time to make sure she doesn't burn herself on a kitchen stove that's older than most of the guys on his crew.

Aww.....

The stubbornness is a tiny bit dumb, though. I mean, she says she doesn't want money, but with a million dollars she could do a lot of stuff. Build a library, endow a scholarship, etc. She loves opera--with a million dollars she could fund a lot of opera stuff (gifts to libraries, performances, etc).
posted by DU at 5:46 AM on October 15, 2007


Obligatory(?) Google Maps snooping of her house!

(Comparing with the paper's picture, seems to be the leftmost lowermost one on the block.)
posted by Iosephus at 5:56 AM on October 15, 2007


Man, I want some chili NOW.
posted by MtDewd at 5:58 AM on October 15, 2007


Another famous nail house in China. It was recently demolished after a long legal battle. Personally while it is heartening to hear the story of the old person refusing to bend to the developers, it does leave a big neighborhood eyesore down the line. What happens when the old woman finally has to move or dies out in 4-5 years. Imminent domain should step in here and be applied for community interest; though I agree it sounds mean.
posted by humanfont at 5:59 AM on October 15, 2007


Building a mall is "community interest"? I think I'd rather have the house.
posted by DU at 6:01 AM on October 15, 2007 [3 favorites]


The stubbornness is a tiny bit dumb, though.

I see your point and I suppose so, but her house has been on my radar ever since I saw it. It's always had that Little House feel. And, it's funny, her place is right next to the Ballard Bridge, under part of which nearby there are stored all these scenic backdrops for carnival style attractions from the Fremont Solstice Festival and right there, there's a garden of roadside planting of dahlias, hydrangea and caladiums that run along a ahlf block of alley by the bridge, that were put there by the guy living in the RV parked by the fence around the carny back drops. On his own dime he gardens along a shadowed street under the bridge.

That part of Ballard was mostly abandoned industrial properties for the longest time. There were empty warehouses, an occasional old house, empty parking lots and, as a consequence, there were and are live aboard RVs, campers and station wagons parked all over the place. Now it is getting developed like crazy but you still see people living in their cars on the side streets. Heck, you see them next door to the big Fred Meyers. I don't know about most of them but that guy and his garden is as much kick for me as much as the house and Mike's Chili Parlor. Man, there is something about that block.
posted by y2karl at 6:02 AM on October 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


Bugs Bunny in "Homeless Hare"
posted by lodurr at 6:04 AM on October 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


Most peopld don't know this, but cradled inside of The Farmer's Market/Grove shopping center in LA there's an old adobe house, one of Southern California's oldest buildings. It's not open to the public. It's like a little spanish oasis tucked inside of this big modern complex, blocked by trees and stuff. It's called the Gillmore Adobe and it was built in 1852 (can't show you a photo, they don't allow them so there are none online). The house was originally built to be two rooms with packed dirt floors and the roof was made with tar from the La Brea Tar Pits before Arthur Gillmore bought it in 1880 and modernized it a bit to his own tastes... added shingles & plumbing and whatnot. Gillmore was a dairy farmer originally and then one day he started drilling for water on the land and... a la Jed Clampett, up from the ground come a bubblin' crude. Anyhow, the Gillmore gas company he founded decided that one rule of the whole Farmer's Market/Grove construction was to never disturb that adobe home and to never make it public. They used it as an office for the gas company for a while, but I don't know if they still do.

Yeah, the adobe wasn't owned by the a stubborn little old lady goin' against The Man like in this story, but I still love that this teeny tiny little piece of California history is (hopefully forever) nestled in there amidst a massive parking structure and unbeknownst to 99.9% of the people in Los Angeles. I always make a point to walk by it whenever I'm over there.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:05 AM on October 15, 2007 [4 favorites]


BTW, the Little House is *sad* to be living in the big city surrounded by construction. The *happy ending* of the story is when it moves to the country. This woman, though I admire her grit, is doing the opposite.
posted by DU at 6:06 AM on October 15, 2007


At first sight, just a grumpy old woman impeding progress – but there is more to it then that. It’s the whole culture she belongs to. I had it with these opera buffs and their trouble making ways and their la-di-da noise that they insist on calling music. Maybe if the shopping mall played some good indie music over their sound system the opera “aficionados” would find another place to “hang around” causing mischief.
posted by JeNeSaisQuoi at 6:10 AM on October 15, 2007 [4 favorites]


Most peopld don't know this, but...

There is more of the same sort of thing here in South Seattle on the Boeing property--along along East Marginal Way and in the middle of blocks and blocks of office buildings, parking lots, hangars and assembly buildings, there is this little white house with awnings and a manicured lawn, trees and garden behind a chain link fence. It's another little old lady house.
posted by y2karl at 6:13 AM on October 15, 2007


...with a million dollars she could do a lot of stuff.

At a certain point in your life, you simply do what you do and are what you are. An old lady is happy with her life and has the agency to keep it the way it is. She grew up in a time when property meant something, and hers is all she has now. You might think it's dumb to get hung up on the principle of the thing, but she (and I) think that it's dumber that one can just wave money under someone's nose and expect them to abandon everything that makes their life recognizably their own. This woman will die with her identity intact. "Do not go gentle..." etc.

Imminent domain should step in here and be applied for community interest; though I agree it sounds mean.

It does sound mean. And foolish. Ultimately what is the value of your own little life and the sum of your own little investments in your surroundings? Are you performing the most valuable possible function in the space you're taking up? Can we give you a little money to go muck up someone else's corner for a while? If I lived in a community that forced an old person out of their home so that people could park their cars a little closer to a store, the only "community interest" I'd feel privy to is evidence that my community really sucks.
posted by hermitosis at 6:17 AM on October 15, 2007 [15 favorites]


BTW, for the people who don't know, the mall I was talking about is on the Northeast corner of 3rd & Fairfax, to the left of Pan Pacific Park and under the CBS studios on Beverly. Notice the little clump of palm trees directly in the center? That's where the little adobe is hidden.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:19 AM on October 15, 2007


"Imminent domain should step in here and be applied for community interest...."

You mean "profit", not "community interest", don't you.

If someone told me I had to move so they could build another fricking mall....I don't think so......they would have to take me out with a SWAT team, and I would go fighting....
posted by HuronBob at 6:25 AM on October 15, 2007 [2 favorites]


Imminent domain ... community interest...

As determined by whom? And in what time frame? And using what criteria?

I'm not quite as hard core as HuronBob, but I'm down with the sentiment. What precisely is the "community interest" of a mall -- more to the point, what community's interest is served? Probably not the "community" of people living in the area, since shopping malls usually play hell with their neighborhoods in any number of ways.
posted by lodurr at 6:28 AM on October 15, 2007 [2 favorites]


(...and curse you to HECK, y2karl, for linking to Mike's Chili Parlor. To HECK, I say.)
posted by lodurr at 6:30 AM on October 15, 2007


You might think it's dumb to get hung up on the principle of the thing...

I might, but I don't. My only point is that "she doesn't need the money" is kind of a specious, sentimental argument. It sets up the image of the robber baron trying to force her to live her life "falsely" with caviar she doesn't like and in an echoing mansion instead of the homely simplicity her mama done taught her. I'm noting that the "million dollars" doesn't have to go to a butler she doesn't want, she could help out other people and still live the way she wants.

Granted, not WHERE she wants--but she'd have to make the decision on what is more important to her. A quixotic 5-10 years of being That Crazy Lady By The Mall or endowing a scholarship or whatever. If she has made that decision thoughtfully rather than just plain stubbornness, I can only say I don't agree with her decision but I definitely admire her determination to see it through.
posted by DU at 6:31 AM on October 15, 2007


it does leave a big neighborhood eyesore down the line

To my mind, the neighbourhood eyesore is yet another soulless mall erected in pursuit of mammon, not the old lady's house. But eventually, she dies, the mall buys the house, they demolish it and the space gets swallowed by yet more concrete. Waiting a few more years for this isn't going to kill the mall owners, whereas forced relocation may well kill Edith Macefield.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:34 AM on October 15, 2007 [3 favorites]


Imminent domain should step in here and be applied for community interest

That spelling of eminent domain is telling. In New Rochelle, NY the city threatened to tear down an entire neighborhood to build an IKEA. There were lots of eyesores, yes, but there was a beautiful old church and there were a lot of people who had been living there -- in perfectly nice houses with a lot of history -- all their lives.

A few years later, in Port Chester, NY, the village successfully tore down a huge area of beautiful old buildings housing a multitude of small businesses -- to build a multiplex and shopping center. The area had its share of dollar stores, but it again had history. And the shopping center, which the village council touted as a savior of sorts, has not done well, with the multiplex shutting down about half of its many screens.

Big box stores, giant developments with only a few anchors, these come and go. And when they go, they leave ruin behind, because they take up so much space. If you pumped a bit of money into the neighborhood, enabling people to spruce up their small businesses and infrastructure, you'd have a much more successful long-term development plan.

I have to applaud Edith Macefield, but when you look at the suburban landscape and how it is changing, specifically in older areas, you have to mourn for the lost architecture, ingenuity and sense of community.

I don't mean to rant, but if you ask me, eminent domain should never be used for commercial development. A highway I can understand. A shopping mall, or a movie theater, though? That's capitalism gone wrong.
posted by brina at 6:35 AM on October 15, 2007 [4 favorites]


"Imminent domain..."

Um, I'm Canadian and we don't really employ that here, but isn't it eminent domain?

Sieg heil to zer grammar nazi!
posted by Turtles all the way down at 6:36 AM on October 15, 2007


...on preview, thanks brina, I guess it is.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 6:37 AM on October 15, 2007


If the developers had any brains, they would integrate the house into the design of the mall. Build a nice curving wall around it, maybe with a small park-buffer zone around it. Then, issue a bunch of press releases with comic "Waddayagunnado? That old lady's got gumption!" shoulder shrugging, and let the house become a tourist attraction.

Finally, enjoy the extra press attention, and extra business.
posted by CaseyB at 6:51 AM on October 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


When the developers start tearing apart Ballard it's time write all of Seattle off. Ballard has always been one of the few areas in Seattle that still felt like it had any soul. The area being developed around this women's house is largely industrial. And if there's one thing Seattle definitely needs is another shopping mall. Disgusting.
posted by photoslob at 6:52 AM on October 15, 2007


I've seen this movie. Just get an army of Volkswagen Beetles, befriend the developers bumbling but idealistically well-meaning lawyer nephew, and next thing you know the house will be safe, everyone will be married and happy, really you're good to go.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 6:53 AM on October 15, 2007


DU -- given inflation, and cognizent of inflation, I think the value gained from having her stand discussed in public is probably greater than any gain we could see from re-investment of her hypothetical "million" dollar payment. (Which would be whittled down considerably by fees and taxes.)

And there's also the important point that every time someone sells out, it lowers the threshold for the next person to sell out.

So while I think it would be great for some newly-wealthy elderly person to invest a shitload in local development, I think it's probably better that people be forced to confront the question of what local development actually is. To give them them courage to stand up at the zoning meeting and ask what being next to a shopping mall is going to do to traffic on their streets, how it will affect crime rates, and what it will do to pedestrian traffic patterns in the neighborhood (which are, after all, what make a neighborhood on the ground). To ask, as brina might, how many of the store fronts in the mall will still be open in five years time.

Mall development is basically a fantastic example of "capitalism as virus" a la Agent Smith: You build a shitload of malls, they compete with each other and end up driving one another out of business. Malls are big all-or-nothing affairs: Basically, below a certain tenancy level, it lives or it dies. A street is a different proposition, because the shops on it can be supported by mixed use, can be interlaced with dwellings and a much more diverse profile of establishments (retail and otherwise) than you'll find in the vast, vast majority of shopping malls.

Put another way: Urban shopping neighborhoods are small ecosystems within a larger ecosystem; shopping malls are large hungry organisms within a larger ecosystem. The system can adapt; the organism, not likely.

And for the second time in as many weeks I find a need to cite an old essay that I finally tracked down (it was here all along). Choice bit:
One of the reasons edge cities haven't attracted many artists and bohemians is that so much of it is brand-new and therefore expensive. That will change. Somebody had to be the first to look at an abandoned New England textile mill and realize it would make a great condominium. Somebody had to be the first to look at an old SoHo sweatshop and realize it would make a great artists loft.

Just so, in the near future, somebody realizes what a great space an old Kmart is - 80,000 square feet with

16-foot ceilings and killer HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). Then he or she realizes you can get them for nothing from the Resolution Trust Corporation - and the first edge-city bohemian district is born.
A great example of sadly mistaken vision: We have hundreds of thousands of empty space where there used to be big-box stores and shopping malls and office parks. Where are the damn bohemians? (Possible answer: They can't afford the gas to live in the 'burbs?)
posted by lodurr at 7:01 AM on October 15, 2007 [2 favorites]


I don't mean to rant, but if you ask me, eminent domain should never be used for commercial development. A highway I can understand. A shopping mall, or a movie theater, though? That's capitalism gone wrong.

Well, that's not really capitalism at all, is it?
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:06 AM on October 15, 2007


Eminent domain is inherently a Bad Thing and should never, ever be leveraged for anything except publically owned and maintained infrastructure. A little old lady holding out against commercial development is just how the system ought to work. She got there first and is entitled to the same rights as the commercial firm.
posted by rolypolyman at 7:06 AM on October 15, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm reminded of the fiesty Jean Herman, a tenant in a rent-controlled brownstone in NYC, who refused to vacate her apartment. She too refused the money offered her to leave, and a 31-story skyscraper rose just beside the little brownstone they'd hoped to demolish. Here's the story, from the NYTimes, 1987.

I remember her story, it made quite an impression on me. I lived in NYC at that time, and it was amazing to see that little building situated curiously in front of thie enormous glass tower. I wonder if the little holdout brownstone is still there. Any New York Mefiers happen to know?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:11 AM on October 15, 2007


Is it just St. Louis, or do they insult the people moved by eminent domain by naming the malls after the moved-out people, in other places too? They always buy out the poorest neighborhood in an area, then name the big-box strip center "Brentwood Commons" or "kirkwood commons" or whatever, in "honor" of the common people that were paid the "fair market value" of 30 grand for their homes - 30 grand which won't get you more than a beat-up doublewide in a trailer park that hasn't had the streets maintained since Reagan was in office.
posted by notsnot at 7:19 AM on October 15, 2007


lodurr: You can't buy old K-mart boxes because K-mart -- or whatever*mart -- won't sell them for fear that a competitor will move in. It's sound business sense to keep the land lease (cheap!) going indefinitely so you don't cannibalize your sales down the road. These things rot empty in parking lots being reclaimed by weeds, and the best hope anyone has for them is that they'll fall down someday and be turned into another megaplex.

Also, they may be huge, but they're not built to last.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:21 AM on October 15, 2007


notsnot: No, that's everywhere. It's tradition for a developer to name a development after whatever was razed to build it. "Sunny Maples" or "Glen Hollow" or whatever -- no, you fucker, it's all ticky-tacky boxes and they all look just the same.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:23 AM on October 15, 2007


(...and curse you to HECK, y2karl, for linking to Mike's Chili Parlor. To HECK, I say.)

I seen it first, ate there first and odds are both times were before you ever even was, sperm boy. So there.
posted by y2karl at 7:30 AM on October 15, 2007


Of Edith Macefield: She lived in Europe for years, traveled, speaks seven languages, loves opera, follows national politics and writes. She is chatty, and even succumbs to a hearty laugh now and then, despite herself.



In other news: “We got more information out of a German general with a game of chess or Ping-Pong than they do today, with their torture,” said Henry Kolm, 90, an M.I.T. physicist whose interrogation of Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy, took place over a chessboard. George Frenkel, 87, recalled that he “never laid hands on anyone” in his many interrogations, adding, “I’m proud to say I never compromised my humanity.”

You know, I'm so sick of these upstart octogenarians and nonagenarian with there sense of courage and intelligence and erudition and compassion and humanity.

Who the hell do they think they are??
posted by Skygazer at 7:45 AM on October 15, 2007 [3 favorites]


Make that: "their there sense of courage and intelligence and erudition and compassion and humanity."


They're making the rest of the asshat good German sheep in this country look like the total fucking fools that they are...
posted by Skygazer at 7:48 AM on October 15, 2007


It's not the firsts that's vexing me, chili-bra, it's hunger.
posted by lodurr at 7:48 AM on October 15, 2007


And, to tell the truth, the eating part was kind of an H. P. Lovecraftian story in itself. Man, that place has changed and not entirely for the worse.

Ballard has always been one of the few areas in Seattle that still felt like it had any soul.

It used to be a separate city--as did Georgetown, which should go some way to explain their separate quotients of character. Ballard, by the way, is one of two places--Minneapolis is the other--at which the King of Norway always stops when he comes to the US.
posted by y2karl at 7:49 AM on October 15, 2007


When they wanted to develop some land for R&D space, MIT was forced (obliged?) to move an entire triple decker to a new plot of land several blocks away, and to place it at a certain angle on that plot so that its single occupant could continue to practice his particular form of Electric Kung Fu.
posted by Gungho at 7:49 AM on October 15, 2007


You can't buy old K-mart boxes because K-mart -- or whatever*mart

Hence, "sadly unrealized."
posted by lodurr at 7:49 AM on October 15, 2007


This is a great story. And what was on the cover of the Ballard News Tribune this week? Another damn sob story about the Denny's that's getting torn out. I'd rather have this old lady and Mike's around (even though I hate Mike's chili) than Moons over My Hammy.
posted by gurple at 7:57 AM on October 15, 2007


...but with a million dollars she could do a lot of stuff. Build a library, endow a scholarship, etc. She loves opera--with a million dollars she could fund a lot of opera stuff (gifts to libraries, performances, etc).

Or, she could buy another house here in Seattle, only smaller and in a poorer location.

The market hasn't crashed here yet, and it's really looking like when it does finally crash, prices will flatten, not crash.
posted by dw at 8:00 AM on October 15, 2007


Hence, "sadly unrealized."

Er, I mean, "sadly mistaken." Didn't realize I'd misquoted myself....
posted by lodurr at 8:11 AM on October 15, 2007


Here's another example:

The National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, NM had to build around the home of a lady, Adela Martinez, who didn't want to leave. Her property remains intact, between the parking lot and the main entrance, and is lived in by her family. There's an article on her on page 14 of this 20 page pdf.
posted by onhazier at 8:14 AM on October 15, 2007


There was some idiot here in D.C. that did the same thing, except the piece of property he refused to sell was about 12 feet long by 5 feet across - about the size of a parking space. They had to build a huge condo building around it. He shows up every day and sits in a little lawn chair on his property to make sure that nobody trespasses on it.
posted by smoothvirus at 8:27 AM on October 15, 2007


GetOffMyEensyBeensyLawn.
posted by y2karl at 8:41 AM on October 15, 2007


When they wanted to develop some land for R&D space, MIT was forced (obliged?) to move an entire triple decker to a new plot of land several blocks away, and to place it at a certain angle on that plot so that its single occupant could continue to practice his particular form of Electric Kung Fu.

Huh. I always wondered about the origins of the Cosmic Moose house. Thanks, Gungho!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:43 AM on October 15, 2007


Update:

It was a bucket, not a lawn chair. Turns out he settled last year.
posted by smoothvirus at 8:49 AM on October 15, 2007


Another incident in Hawaii.
posted by jet_silver at 9:27 AM on October 15, 2007


Great post and comments, thanks.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:32 AM on October 15, 2007


Ugh, I hate eminent domain & I like this old lady, but what happens after she croaks? What person without her sentimental attachment to the property is going to want to live there with a big concrete wall outside the window? It sounds like a big waste.

Maybe they could have bought the rights to her home after she passes & come up with a plan to incorporate the lot later.
posted by Wood at 9:34 AM on October 15, 2007


miss lynster, I used to live on Genesee near the Grove. In the late 90s, before the Grove was built, I used to walk on that street, check out the "Price is Right" prizes on the CBS set and look at the Gilmore Adobe. Between the feral cats and the wild chickens & roosters, it was downright rural. I don't park in the Grove parking lot often, but I have heard an occasional rooster crowing there still.
posted by mogget at 9:43 AM on October 15, 2007


Yeah, let me echo the "just one million?" sentiment. I don't know about where you guys are, but one million dollars isn't a lot of money (cue falling USD joke). Trading in your home that you know and love for a sum of money doesn't seem like that good a deal. Especially with all the hassles that would come with buying a new house, managing the money, etc.

Also,

At first sight, just a grumpy old woman impeding progress – but there is more to it then that. It’s the whole culture she belongs to. I had it with these opera buffs and their trouble making ways and their la-di-da noise that they insist on calling music. Maybe if the shopping mall played some good indie music over their sound system the opera “aficionados” would find another place to “hang around” causing mischief.

They play opera outside the mall here. Of course they do it at high volume on shitty speakers to keep people from loitering, but they play it just the same.
posted by ODiV at 9:55 AM on October 15, 2007


This snippet shows how important certain houses are to certain people. The MIT house occupent was called to a hearing...
Peter Valentine, a resident of Blanche St. for over 20 years, was called to the stand to represent the intangible hardship that will be suffered by tenants due to a relocation that may no longer have a purpose.

Valentine began his testimony by stating that he could not be moved from his home because he was currently in karma with his energy fields and relocation may jeopardize this karma.

Although Lewis had objected to all presentations put forth by the other side up until this point, he allowed Valentine to present a one page speech he had prepared as additional testimony.

This speech was accompanied by unsubmitted evidence, including a bag of gray hair which Valentine claimed had been his own and a display of other hairs which he said showed that he had found a way to turn grey hair back to its natural color without the use of chemicals. "In other words, to reverse the aging process," he said.

Valentine claimed that if research like his were occurring at MIT, all efforts would be made to accommodate the researcher. He believes that he must remain at his current residence in order to continue his research.

He also said that the Rent Control Board should be familiar with his important powers. Not long ago, there was a Cambridge outdoor event scheduled for a day on which thunderstorms had been predicted. Valentine said that city officials hired him to prevent the thunderstorms, and sure enough it was beautifully sunny that day.
posted by Gungho at 10:20 AM on October 15, 2007


I don't know about where you guys are, but one million dollars isn't a lot of money (cue falling USD joke). Trading in your home that you know and love for a sum of money doesn't seem like that good a deal. Especially with all the hassles that would come with buying a new house, managing the money, etc.

First: If you really consider "managing the money" to be a drawback of accepting $1 million, you are crazy. You can stick it in a money market account and earn $50k/year, for pete's sake.

Second: Take a look at what $900k buys in the Seattle area. Pretty sweet. A million dollars would suit most people just fine.

None of this is to say that the lady necessarily should have sold if she wanted to stay in her house, but it would have been a fully rational decision to do so.
posted by brain_drain at 10:28 AM on October 15, 2007


I first saw her house and the construction around it, back in 2004.
At the time, not knowing any of the story, I still thought it was a sad statement on the changing nature of the neighborhood. She doesn't have ANY residential neighbors, and hasn't for a long long time. It seems like a very lonely place to wait to die.
posted by nomisxid at 11:27 AM on October 15, 2007


Also see Austin L. Spriggs in Washington, DC. I give a little cheer for him when I see his little stub of a townhouse, now towered over by the condo development he simply would not give in to.
posted by brownpau at 11:55 AM on October 15, 2007


brain_drain: I agree that it would be a rational decision. I also agree that figuring out what to do with $1M would be a small consideration were it me. :)

I'm just considering that with the stress of change and all the headaches that come with buying and selling houses I can see why she'd want to stay.
posted by ODiV at 12:24 PM on October 15, 2007


ODiV: fair enough!
posted by brain_drain at 12:26 PM on October 15, 2007


Wood writes "Ugh, I hate eminent domain & I like this old lady, but what happens after she croaks? What person without her sentimental attachment to the property is going to want to live there with a big concrete wall outside the window? It sounds like a big waste."

To whom? I mean, she didn't move there for everyone else's sake.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:44 PM on October 15, 2007


You'll Never Take My Land! - A thread on googlesightseeing.com looks (from above) at other holdouts v. the man.
posted by not_on_display at 12:58 PM on October 15, 2007


Granted, not WHERE she wants--but she'd have to make the decision on what is more important to her. A quixotic 5-10 years of being That Crazy Lady By The Mall or endowing a scholarship or whatever.

You know, by standing fast and refusing to sell her home, this woman has gotten something that people -- not just older people, not just lonely people, but people -- crave: attention. Lots of it. She gets articles written about her in the paper, people who have never met her talking about her, and construction workers driving her around. She's a minor celebrity living in a home she loves, and the alternative would have been to be an older person who nobody notices living in a place she has no friends in. I think she made the only reasonable choice.
posted by davejay at 1:00 PM on October 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


Three notes:

1. My university has a house on campus. I believe it was this sort of a situation—when they were buying up property to install the basketball arena and some dorms, the owners didn't want to sell. Later, the house came into the school's possession. It's now used for art studios and the humanities publication center, for which it is perfect, due in part to its unique character.

2. In the late '80s, my hometown in Washington bulldozed all but three blocks of its formerly livable, walkable, varied downtown and put up a mall. The mall flopped and was eventually reworked at considerable cost into a 'shopping plaza'. Only in the past five or so years has it been able to maintain full occupancy and a variety of stores. Where once interesting shops and pleasant gridded streets lay, now wide open ranges of bare asphalt beckon to the young and intemperate for whom pedestrians are an obscenity and a motor vehicle is a throbbing two-ton steel-framed phallic proxy. I contend that this was not an improvement.

3. I did not grow up hanging around the mall/eyesore/plaza thing. I grew up running around on 50 acres of undeveloped land, much of it second- and old-growth lowland forest, behind my house. There were several property owners, but the whole site is anchored by the property of a cranky old man, Merton Turk, a logger turned private parkowner, who maintains the trails, a well, and a dancefloor with his truck, his chainsaw, and occasionally his sawed-off. He started doing this many years ago, when he perceived, rightly, that soon there would be none too much legitimate, safe, community-centered recreation in town. To his forest I owe an awful lot of childhood and teen lessons in self-reliance, in ecology, in peace of mind, in human relations, in local history (the forest contains the last surviving stretch of the city's first road, and the last visible traces of the creek that ran alongside it), and in beauty.

Mert has faced all kinds of woes with this project, arising from the idiocy of suburban teen males, the lawsuit-happy culture, the establishment of a meth house near one of the entrances, and (as he argues it) the deliberate and illegal promotion of vandalism by real-estate developers who hope to break his will and make a subdivision of it all. (Illegalities are not exactly unknown in the land business up here. Across the street from his woods, a parcel of similar size mysteriously stopped being a protectable/remediable wetland just long enough for the development permit to get issued.) In the teeth of all this, he has more than once had credible multi-million-dollar buyout offers: Some from the development companies, one from a man whose daughter had her wedding reception back there and who chartered a 747 from the East Coast to bring the guests. (Him: 'I like these woods. I want to put my house right here in the middle of 'em. What are they worth to you?' Mert: 'Not for sale.' Him: 'Six million sound all right?' Mert: 'How you gonna do that? Rubber checks, Confederate, or counterfeit?' Him: 'Name your bank. In two hours I'll have an armored car there, pay it out in cash, have the paperwork all ready to sign.')

Mert has refused all of these offers with a resolve that hints at madness or divinity. He lives at the poverty line, in the last house for miles around that still has chickens in the yard. Payments for the use of his dancefloor get donated straight to the battered women's shelter.

Just a few years ago County Parks came into some state funds earmarked for wild-space recreation. Lands bought with this money cannot be repurposed—in particular, cannot be developed for sports fields or ugly identical stylish houses. They set up a trust, and Mert finally agreed to leave the property to them when he dies. It will be a beautiful, natural, forested park in perpetuity. And I say God bless that forest, and God bless stubborn anti-development old people everywhere.
posted by eritain at 1:05 PM on October 15, 2007 [8 favorites]


You know, by standing fast and refusing to sell her home, this woman has gotten something that people -- not just older people, not just lonely people, but people -- crave: attention.

I don't think so. She has refused to talk to any reporters. What TV coverage there has been of her has happened when she was in her yard. She even blew off CBS's David Hartman. She just doesn't want to move.
posted by y2karl at 1:21 PM on October 15, 2007


Kick ass old lady. Plus she doesn’t have to drive anywhere to go shopping anymore.

“If someone told me I had to move so they could build another fricking mall....I don't think so......they would have to take me out with a SWAT team, and I would go fighting....” - posted by HuronBob

Gimme a call, I’ll get your back. (Just mebbe buy me some lunch)
posted by Smedleyman at 1:27 PM on October 15, 2007


But she has talked to someone. Coming soon to a screening room near some of you: The Chronicles of Saint Edith .
posted by y2karl at 1:38 PM on October 15, 2007


I used to live about 12 blocks from her house and drove by there almost daily. Last thing Ballard needs is another Quiznos, Puget Communist Coop, Mailboxes USA, and a Starbucks. Good for her.
posted by maxwelton at 1:44 PM on October 15, 2007




Kick ass old lady. Plus she doesn’t have to drive anywhere to go shopping anymore.


With 1 million dollars you can go shopping daily with multiple limos. It can be delivered on the back of a fighting elephant that can play taps with its trunk.

Someone somewhere is going to coin a term for "when strangers cheer on the stubborn irrational actions of others." Ballard syndrome?
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:57 PM on October 15, 2007


With 1 million dollars you can go shopping daily with multiple limos.

Sure you could. Only that million dollars would be gone quicker than you might imagine, I reckon.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:00 PM on October 15, 2007


Of course she resists moving! Can you imagine packing up 50 years of accumulation?
posted by Cranberry at 3:20 PM on October 15, 2007


So how come we're not going to Mike's Chili Parlor on Oct. 25th?
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 4:03 PM on October 15, 2007


Sell her place and use a million dollars for Library endowments? In Seattle? That might buy the storage locker at a library in this town.

A million dollars is chicken feed in Seattle. No. Scratch that. You couldn't even support enough Chickens on 1 million dollars in Seattle.

I live in a 1200 square foot condo in Seattle that, on paper, is worth almost that much.

If I was her age... with maybe another 10-15 years of expensive health care ahead of me... a million dollars wouldn't be much if I wanted to stay here. A home. A real home— is worth much more than that.

She would have to take that money, after capital gains, and move to some some much smaller town, where she doesn't know anybody, and likely get inferior health care and die alone in some cold place with which she has no connection.

I say way to go old lady. Way to go.
posted by tkchrist at 4:51 PM on October 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


With 1 million dollars you can go shopping daily with multiple limos.

Not in Seattle.
posted by tkchrist at 4:52 PM on October 15, 2007


You can't buy old K-mart boxes because K-mart -- or whatever*mart

Hence, "sadly unrealized."


You can't try & tell me that Seattle doesn't have a squatter community.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:58 PM on October 15, 2007


Of course she resists moving! Can you imagine packing up 50 years of accumulation?

I imagine that trying to round up seventeen dozen cats would take some time too, not to mention the scratches one would receive...
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:00 PM on October 15, 2007


Metafilter: A throbbing two-ton steel-framed phallic proxy
posted by asok at 3:04 AM on October 16, 2007


You can't try & tell me that Seattle doesn't have a squatter community.

I wouldn't dream of it. Which is why I didn't try.
posted by lodurr at 3:08 AM on October 16, 2007


A million dollars is chicken feed in Seattle. No. Scratch that.

When youre 86 years old its equivalant to a billion dollars for a young person. She probably has 3-4 more years of life left. Perfect opportunity to go all Brewster's Millions with it.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:51 AM on October 16, 2007


I'm surprised after the Kelo decision that she could hold onto her property. Getting in and out of her driveway is going to be almost impossible once the mall starts getting traffic.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:15 PM on October 16, 2007


She has no driveway. She got a handicap parking space in front of her property a long, long time ago. As for Kelo, the phrase widow robbers comes to mind. This would be a fight no one in the many departments of the City of Seattle would want, given the circumstances.
posted by y2karl at 1:33 PM on October 16, 2007


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