Bubble yuck: Crews unstick old gum from famed Seattle wall

The likeness of an American flag made from pieces of gum sticks to a wall at Seattle's "gum wall" at Pike Place Market, Monday, Nov. 9, 2015. On Tuesday, a steam-cleaning process to remove all of the gum from the walls is scheduled to begin, the first full cleaning the quirky tourist attraction has received in 20 years. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)


SEATTLE (AP) — A piece of Seattle history is coming down — or rather, 1 million little pieces.

Crews are cleaning up the city’s famed “gum wall” near Pike Place Market, where tourists and locals have been sticking their used chewing gum for the past 20 years.

The wall is plastered with wads of gum in a kaleidoscope of colors, some stretched and pinched into messages, hearts and other designs. People also have used the gooey gobs to paste up pictures, business cards and other mementos.

On Tuesday, powerful steam cleaners were melting it all off.

Emily Crawford, a Pike Place Market spokeswoman, said that following a busy summer season, market leaders decided now was as good a time as any to wipe the wall clean. But they expect people will start leaving gum on the space again soon.

“It’s an icon. It’s history,” said onlooker Zoe Freeman, who works near Pike Place. “The market is famous for the gum wall. But it also draws rats.”

Pike Place Market hired a contractor, Cascadian Building Maintenance, to take on the cleaning. They chose steam over pressure-washing to conserve the historic market’s brick walls.

On Tuesday, a fruity, sweet smell wafted through the alley as workers in protective suits blasted the dried gum with moist air.

“I just hope that the citizens of Seattle don’t hate me for removing the gum wall,” said Kelly Foster, the contractor’s general manager.

People first began smooshing their gum to the wall while waiting for shows at the nearby Market Theater. Since then, the “gum wall” has expanded beyond one wall and onto other walls of an alley, pipes and even the theater’s box office window.

Crawford said the cleaning crew will collect and weigh the gum each day it is removed. The cleaning is expected to take three days.

By Crawford’s rough calculation, there are about 2,200 pounds of gum on the walls.

“We’ll find out at the end of the week how right my guesstimate really is,” she said.

Market officials hope to contain where people put their gum in the future but say they aren’t holding their breath.

WTNH NEWS8 provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Also, you can now block any inappropriate user by simple selecting the drop down menu on the right of any comment and selection "Block User" from there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s