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The Macefield Music Festival Honors the Patron Saint of Fighting Developers in Seattle

Macefield Music Fest team
The Macefield Music Fest team.

The once-sleepy Seattle neighborhood of Ballard, just northwest of Lake Union, was for decades a gritty, dive-bar dotted fisherman’s village.

Neko Case worked in one of those dives, in the kitchen of a local hangout called Hattie’s Hat. (Around the same time, during a secret Whiskeytown show, an over sauced Ryan Adams took a famous tumble from one of its barstools.) Folklore has it there once was an ordinance requiring “a bar for every church.” It’s a part of the city rife with salty stories and hometown heroes.

One of the best examples is Edith Macefield, the widely-celebrated real estate holdout who refused to sell the small cottage where she lived for over fifty years to developers, who offered her nearly a million dollars for the place. After she refused multiple deals, a large retail complex that now houses an L.A. Fitness, Ross Dress for Less, and Trader Joes was built, much to the builder’s chagrin, awkwardly around her small cottage.

In 2008, Macefield died in that house, as her mother had, over twenty years before. But her small act of defiance—swirled with rumors and the mystery of her own life—did not go unnoticed. Publicists from the Pixar movie Up tied balloons around the property, promoting the film while putting Macefield in the spotlight. A handful of area residents had “the house” tattooed on their bodies. In the city and beyond, countless stories were written about the little old lady who refused to sell.

After she passed away, Macefield, who played the saxophone and claimed Benny Goodman was her cousin, became the inspiration for the Macefield Music Festival.

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