For years Seattle’s most infamous corner has been gathering damp and gushy pieces of abandoned gum. Tourists flock to the “Gum Wall” to have their pictures taken against its perturbingly full and colorful backdrop. Today, the Gum Wall stands at 8 feet high and 54 feet wide, with approximately 150 pieces of gum per brick. That’s pretty gnarly, but it’s also shockingly impressive, featuring over one million wads of leftover gum. This is why Pike Place’s decision to scrub the Gum Wall comes as a bit of a surprise, and perhaps an unpleasant one.
The Wall was initially started in 1995 when people waiting in line for a late night improvisational show stuck their gum to a wall. This wall was located in Post Alley, just under the equally-famous Pike Place Market. 20 years later, the Gum Wall features over 1,000,000 pieces of gum in a rainbow of colors. You might never have suspected such a project to either flourish or be so beautiful, and yet, there it is.
The clean-up is scheduled to start on November 10th of this year. Pike Place Market expects there to be a total scrub-down which may take multiple days, given that there are several tons of gum to be removed. After the clean-up, people will once again be invited to stick their moist and unwanted pieces of gum to the wall. Such a cycle has already happened three times, and it’s terrifying to imagine what the wall might look like today had the three previous clean-ups not happened.
The Gum Wall has become an icon of Seattle tourism, whether or not Seattleites appreciate its presence. Thousands of people flock to Seattle’s Pike Place Market and make a beeline to the Wall to both contribute to its collection and to take a gaggle of pictures. Is it worth it to clean a wall that will merely become littered again with wads of sticky sugariness? Would Seattle be better off leaving it to grow into a monstrous, and inescapable, piece of art? It’s hard to tell. Regardless, take your last snapshot of the Gum Wall while you can, as for a long time coming it will be sparklingly clean.