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Friday, June 20, 2008

A Price for Everything?


Just to follow up on my post on gentrification, here's an article from the Seattle Times about an elderly woman who held out against private development because she just didn't want to sell, at any price.  When she wouldn't sell, developers simply built around her (see photo, also from the Times story).

From the article:

Last time I saw Edith Macefield, she threatened to sue me. Then she smiled and invited me in.  It was in 2006. I had written a column about how old Edith had refused to leave her tiny home in a filthy, industrial Ballard neighborhood, saying "no" to a nearly million-dollar buyout offer from a developer.

Her house was valued as a worthless tear-down by the government. But to her it was priceless.  When I stopped by later to check on her, she said she was angry that I had written about her. More than anything, she said, she wanted to be left alone.

But Edith, I said. You're a folk hero.  I showed her some of the 200 e-mail messages I'd gotten from readers, some from as far away as Seoul, South Korea. They hailed her for valuing something other than money. For being a lone holdout against relentless Seattle yuppification.  "She's about the last thing left with any soul around here," said a typical one.

That's when she invited me in. Turns out she had gotten 60 similar letters, some hand-delivered with flowers. As she showed them, she dismissed all the fuss as hooey.

"I'm no hero," she said. "I meant it. I just want to be left alone."  Edith died Sunday, at 86. She died in the tiny cottage she had refused to leave, not for a million bucks.  "She got what she wanted," said Charlie Peck, a longtime friend. "She wanted to die at home, in the same house, on the same couch, where her mother had died. That's what she was so stubborn about."

Posted by Eduardo Penalver on June 20, 2008 at 08:31 AM | Permalink


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Shades of Virginia Lee Burton's "Little House," the classic story of the cottage that eventually is surrounded by skyscrapers but, because it "cannot be sold for gold or silver," stands pat until the descendants of the original builder pay to move it out to the countryside.

The photo, by the way, bears an uncanny resemblance to Burton's illustrations.

Posted by: Rick Hills | Jun 20, 2008 11:23:10 AM

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