The "Up" House: Owned by a Late Local Hero, Now Facing an Uncertain Future
Not far from where Axis Automotive and Henry's much loved walrus mural used to be in Ballard stands a little house with a big fanbase. It's the "Up" house, named for its resemblance to the house in the Pixar movie Up. Back in the fall of 2006, it was just another property targeted by developers who were eager to tear the house down and build a retail venture. Nestled on NW 46th Street in industrial Ballard, the house wasn't assessed at much: $8,000 for the house, $101,000 for the land. But to owner Edith Wilson Macefield, the little bungalow was her world. She puttered about, tending to her azaleas in her tidy back yard, listening to Sinatra, feeding her birds, writing short stories, reading the classics and just generally minding her business. The house was built in 1900, her mom had lived and died there, and she'd lived there for more than 50 years. Why would she move? Money?
The developers offered her a lot of money, close to $1 million. Macefield was having none of it, so they simply built around her. For the next two years, she stayed put until she died, through construction jackhammers, porta-potties and eventually, looming concrete walls flanking her home on three sides. Cantankerous and with a mysterious backstory (was she really an undercover agent during World War II?), Macefield became a local folk hero by the time she died in 2008. Her "refuse to move" story has inspired a short documentary, Steadfast, the Macefield Music festival, the book Under One Roof and an army of interesting tattoos. The house even has its own Facebook page.
Where You can find the Up House
Curious to see the house for yourself? The address is 1438 NW 46th Street in Seattle. The following map shows a birds-eye view of the area surrounding the house, which is indicated with the black pin.
And before you go for your visit, why not grab a marker, bring a balloon, write a message on the balloon, and attach it to the informal memorial balloon wall in front of the house. You'll be in good company.
What's Next for the Up House?
The one thing that hasn't happened? The house hasn't been demolished, but its future is increasingly uncertain. In August 2015, an Orcas Island nonprofit, OPAL Community Land Trust, launched an ambitious but unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign to raise $205,000 toward saving the house. If successful, OPAL would have floated the house to Orcas Island by barge, purchased the land on which to relocate the house, renovated the house, and then made it available to a family in need. But with only 9 percent of the Kickstarter funds raised, OPAL had to abandon their plan and the house was sold to another buyer.
During a time when many older commercial buildings and homes are rapidly disappearing in Ballard and throughout Seattle, OPAL's Kickstarter was a worthy bid to preserve a part of Ballard's history.