An Infamous Wall Made of Gum In Seattle Is To Be Melted Clean

Chew On This

Someone once was waiting in line for the theatre in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. They then decided they chewed enough and promptly stuck their gum on the wall. Thus began a long-standing tradition in Seattle that has now become famous as the Gum Wall. 

It began back in 1991, so you can imagine the number of pieces of gum on that well. It is estimated to be around 1 million and some of them are around 20 years old. It was once named the second-germiest tourist spot in the world after Ireland’s Blarney stone. 

gum wall 1 

It has now become a form of living art and has become a landmark for Seattle. Despite this, the wall is being scheduled for one sticky and messy clean up. According to Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority spokeswoman Emily Crawford, removing the gum is necessary to protect the historic buildings in the Market District. 

“It was never part of the charter or the history of the Market to have the walls covered with gum,” she said. “Gum is made of chemicals, sugar, additives. Things that aren’t good for us. I can’t imagine it’s good for brick.”

Seattle with April January 2009

How will the de-gumming operation happen?

Kelly Foster of Cascadian Building Maintenance, the company contracted to handle the job, said the gum will be removed with an “industrial steam machine that works like a pressure washer,” the Times reports. The newspaper says it’ll cost around $4,000 and adds that:

“The machine will melt the gum with 280-degree steam; it will fall to the ground, and a two- to three-man crew will collect the gum in five-gallon buckets. ‘This is probably the weirdest job we’ve done,’ Foster said.”

gum wall 3

According to the Los Angeles Times, the process will begin on Nov. 10 and take around three days to complete, leaving the wall gum-free and squeaky clean — at least for now.

“We’re not saying it can’t come back,” Crawford told the Seattle newspaper. “We need to wipe the canvas clean and keep (it) fresh.”

Mercedes Carrabba, who owns Market Ghost Tours and Ghost Alley Espresso in the Pike Place Market, told KUOW’s David Hyde that she’s excited about the cleaning, noting that some portions of the wall have been scrubbed in the past.

“It’s like an organism — it grows back. Or like a lost limb, it returns,” she said. “That’s actually the most exciting part, is having people continue to interact with it. Even if it goes away briefly, it still comes back.”

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