Edith Macefield’s Legendary House in Seattle: The Real-Life Story That Inspired “Up”

Edith Macefield achieved worldwide notoriety in 2006 when she turned down US$1 million to sell her home to make way for a commercial development in the Ballard neighborhood of SeattleIn the process, she became something of a folk hero.Instead, the five-story project was built surrounding her 108-year-old farmhouse, where she died at age 86.

After her death it was revealed that Macefield willed her house to the new building’s construction superintendent, Barry Martin, in gratitude for the friendship he had shown her during the construction. Martin told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “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.

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. On May 26, 2009, Disney publicists attached balloons to the roof of Macefield’s house, as a promotional tie-in to their film Up, in which an aging widower’s home is similarly surrounded by looming development.

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