Another one bites the dust: Seattle's Edith Macefield House might have just 90 days

Macefield House
CC BY 2.0 Seen in March 2015/ Lloyd Alter

In February I asked What will happen to the Edith Macefield house? It's the little house belonging to the little old lady, Edith Macefield, who wouldn't sell out to the big developer, who then built right around her. Many people compare it to the house in the movie Up!; I thought it was much more like Virginia Lee Burton's Little House, which eventually was put on a trailer and moved out to the country, where it could " watch the seasons pass and live happily ever after."

That may well be what happens now; The Times says the house was sold at auction to an investment company; A woman was then going to buy it to open a pie shop for her daughter (to be called Edith Pie) but apparently is backing out of the deal because according to Seattle Pi, " city rules require that the home comply with the current city of Seattle building codes, a task that [broker] Thomas described as “virtually impossible.”

That surprises me; usually authorities are flexible when there are unusual and famous properties like this, getting coverage all over the world. It's a big tourist attraction even in its current state. They are usually open to negotiation.

According to the New York Times, the broker for the buyer is saying:

"After reviewing the situation, the seller has reluctantly concluded that their best option is to donate the house, ideally to a nonprofit, and then sell the land"...He said the owner will accept proposals for the next 30 days from individuals or groups willing and able to haul the building away, intact — and as is — free of charge. A wrecking crew will come in 90 days later if what Mr. Thomas called a “qualified recipient who is capable of moving the house” is not found.

Macefield House/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

This is a standard playbook, the only thing missing is a suspicious fire: Demolition by neglect, too far gone to be saved (sorry), too expensive to fix, and let's just move it out of the way so that we have developable land that we can sell for much more money. Even though in this case, context and location is everything; move the house and it's pretty much meaningless. Our mantra "the greenest building is the one already standing" usually implies standing in one spot.

Preservation is a tough business. The reconstructed house has to comply with earthquake and ADA requirements. But it is done all the time. The main reasons we lose historic houses these days is because they are blocking much larger developments that could be built on the land. However a reconstructed and restored Edith Macefield House is a lot more of a draw than whatever fills in the space in this crappy mall building in Ballard. What a lost opportunity.

Tags: Ban Demolition | Preservation | Seattle

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