The house from UP, the Disney movie, is probably one of the most iconic houses in the entire industry. But what if I told you that this little house is inspired by a real event?
This is a story that goes much further; it’s a tale of the unlikely friendship between two individuals who under normal circumstances might have been considered adversaries: the elderly owner of the house and the construction foreman in charge of the surrounding project. A story that has nothing to envy the UP movie.
The story that inspired the UP house
The story began in the early ’50s when Edith Macefield moved into an old yet refurbished house in the Ballard neighborhood in Seattle, identical to what we see in UP. As time passed, the neighborhood gradually underwent changes. Houses disappeared, making way for the construction of shops, workshops, and industrial facilities. By 2005, Edith Macefield’s house was the only one left on the block. All others had been purchased and demolished.
With the arrival of the real estate bubble, there were plans to build a shopping center on that land, and the surrounding houses were sold for $200,000 each. Edith Macefield was offered $750,000 for her house, but she turned down the offer. Consequently, the shopping center began to rise around her home, essentially enveloping it.
This case became a local legend, and beyond the UP movie, it remains an iconic place. Media outlets were enthralled by this battle in which a stubborn old woman defied powerful contractors. However, Edith didn’t appreciate the narrative sold by the newspapers. She never agreed to speak with them, television channels, or radio stations. She didn’t see herself as a heroine in any story.
In her own words, she also didn’t have a special attachment to her house. Although she was 83 years old and had limited mobility, she had no intention of moving. What she truly possessed was a friendly character, which she often displayed to the construction workers surrounding her. She enjoyed their company and chatting with her neighbors. One of these neighbors was Barry Martin, the construction foreman of the shopping center.
A different truth
Barry Martin occasionally knocked on her door to deliver her mail and ask about her health. Edith welcomed Barry with open arms, and these small conversations gradually turned into lengthy chats accompanied by coffee.
Over the years, Martin became the primary caregiver for Mrs. Macefield. He would take her to medical appointments, the hair salon, and even the grocery store. To better arrange schedules, he himself organized these appointments.
During the two years when the construction of the shopping center took place, Edith Macefield shared all the stories of her life with Barry Martin. She spoke about her origins in England, how she sheltered war orphans during World War II, and even her experience as a spy for the British army until she was captured by the Nazis and sent to the Dachau concentration camp, where she spent several months.
With each conversation, the relationship between Edith and Barry strengthened, until in 2008, the elderly woman was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer. It was in that same hospital where Barry convinced her to move to a care facility.
He took charge of the expenses, and Edith granted him legal powers to make decisions on her behalf. Martin’s last decision was to maintain the house until her owner’s last day, even though she no longer lived there.
The impact of Edith Macefield
Mrs. Edith Macefield passed away on June 15, 2008, at the age of 86. In her will, she bequeathed the property at 1438 NW 46th Street in the Ballard neighborhood in Seattle to Mr. Barry Martin.
The story of Mrs. Edith Macefield was so famous in Seattle that some people even got tattoos of her. The balloons seen in some photos were because in 2009, Disney rented the house to take some promotional photos for “UP,” although they ultimately did not use them.
By the way, in 2013, Barry Martin published a book telling his story: “Under One Roof: Lessons I Learned from a Tough Old Woman in a Small Old House.”
The house still stands, albeit covered with wooden boards. You can find it on Google Maps.