Chew on this: Seattle cleans famous, gross ‘Gum Wall’ for first time in 20 years

Gum Wall, Pike Place Market, Seattle © wikipedia.org
The “Gum Wall” landmark in downtown Seattle had accumulated a million discarded pieces of chewing gum over the past 20 years. All of it was cleaned off in a matter of hours, presenting a fresh start for a gross yet oddly attractive tradition.

In Post Alley under the Pike Place Market, there is a 15-foot-high, 50-foot-long wall that backs up the Market Theater’s box office. Much of it can’t be seen, though. That’s because several inches of gum are stuck there, some twisted and pulled into messages, symbols, or other art.

The Pike Place Market Preservation & Development Authority announced the “Gum Wall” would be cleaned off on November 10, something that had not happened in two decades.

The bricks in the wall were at risk of erosion from the sugar sticking to them, which is why the conservators opted for steam cleaning rather than pressure washing.

Pike Place Market spokeswoman Kelly Crawford told the Associated Press that she calculated roughly 2,200 pounds of gum were stuck to the wall. Officials intend to weigh all the gum they gather in order to determine an exact measurement.

Tourists and locals have stuck to the tradition since at least 1999, though it officially began around 1993. Theatergoers would place coins covered in gum on the wall, and when the theater management gave up attempting to clean off the mess, the wall became known as a public treasure. It remains so, though momentarily less messy.