Edith Macefield House / 99% Invisible
A couple weeks ago, two of my favorite things collided. I’m taking this opportunity to share both with you.
When I’m painting, road tripping, or walking around town I like to listen to podcasts. It’s a way to let my mind wander a little while still having a good topic of conversation to learn about. I have a few podcasts that I like a lot, and I’ll share them with you at the bottom, but my favorite podcast BY FAR is 99% Invisible. 99% Invisible is a design podcast based out of San Francisco, hosted by Roman Mars. They publish a new podcast weekly. This past week’s episode is titled, “Holdout.”
The main topic in this episode is the house of Edith Macefield. They go into great detail about the importance of this quirky house so I’ll paraphrase. Edith’s house was smack dab in the middle of a large commercial retail center just across the bridge in Ballard. She refused to sell her house (even after her death), so they built around her. Her story has been told in multiple places but I think the 99% version is the most thorough to date.
You might be asking, “Roy, who cares? It’s a house surrounded by a shopping center.” Well, reader, it’s more than that. Edith's holdout is extraordinary because it continues to spearhead the conversation about managing growth in Seattle. This story played out in the early to mid 2000’s. During this time Ballard was being taken over by condos (most of which are now rental apartments). Seemingly over night, the face of this neighborhood changed drastically. While a lot of big block buildings have gone in, many other buildings have been spared. This means, you have one story older buildings holding restaurants and shops smashed right up next to a six story complex of mixed use space, smashed up next to Mid-Century low rise apartment buildings.
Ballard’s neighborhood spirit lives on. That spirit does include more craft cocktails and hipster accoutrements. They have the best neighborhood farmer’s market on Sundays. Their nightlife is less pretentious than some other neighborhoods (for now). Not every bar has a line on the weekends (ahem, Capitol Hill). Most importantly, you can still purchase or rent a single family home close to a major commercial hotspot. This is a common theme in Seattle. I don’t think it will be common forever. For the health of our city’s diversity and ecological footprint I don’t think this can last forever. It sounds like Edith didn’t think so either.
Here is one tidbit I’m going to leave you to think about in terms of density. Seattle vs. Philadelphia. According to wikipedia. Seattle is 142.4 miles square. Philadelphia is 141.6 miles squared. They take up almost the exact same amount of the earth’s crust. Look at their density though. Seattle has 7,774 people per square mile. Philadelphia has about 45% more people per square mile, 11,379.6.
As promised, here are some other podcasts I love:
Planet Money - http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/127413729/podcast/
Song Exploder - http://songexploder.net/
This American Life - http://www.thisamericanlife.org/
Freakonomics Radio - http://freakonomics.com/category/freakonomics-radio/podcasts/
Wiretap - http://www.cbc.ca/wiretap/podcasts/
Bad at Sports - http://badatsports.com/category/podcast/
Please feel free to share your thoughts on Edith Macefeild, Density & Growth, or your favorite podcasts via the comments below or by emailing me.