Pike Place Market, a farmers’ market (well, kind of a giant farmers’ mall populated mostly by fishermen) has been selling delicious foodstuffs — and just a ludicrous amount of salmon — for over a hundred years. For people who come here to eat, as visitors to Seattle invariable do, there is even a special place to leave gum. Well, there was.
Located in a winding passageway called Post Alley, one brick partition of the city’s Market Theater performance space has been receiving the finished gum of patrons since 1993, and is known, understandably, as “The Gum Wall.” The Seattle Times once referred to it as “participatory art” and gave it “runner-up status for world’s germiest tourist attraction…second only to Ireland’s Blarney Stone.”
The Pike Place Market Preservation & Development Authority, an organization that works to protect the vintage, century-old Pike Place structures, claims that the Gum Wall — as in the part of the wall that actually consists of pure gum — is eight feet high and over 54 feet wide, with each brick of the wall possessing approximately 150 placed pieces. It also states that the wall is coming down. Soon.
The PDA states that while the chewy stuff is already being steam-cleaned bimonthly, the chemicals, additives, and sugar in the deposited gum is wearing away the building’s exterior, and needs to be removed in order to save the dated wall that has been playing host to all that abandoned sticky stuff. On November 10 at 8 a.m., the cleaning steam will be cranked up to melt-inducing temperatures, which will drop the gum to the ground, where crews will collect it all in buckets. The anticipated duration of the cleaning is expected to last three to four days.
Pike Place Market is recognizing the occasion with a contest, asking people to take photos of the Dead Gum Walking and upload the pictures to a purpose-built site in the hopes of winning a personalized charm.
As for the future of the masticated monument, the PDA plans to add more traditional art to the alley, and, while expressing hope that a Gum Wall 2.0 never really evolves, anticipates that the wall is a likely candidate for new gumming.
“We expect the Gum Wall will live on — it’s a Seattle tradition and a crowd-sourced piece of public art that people really enjoy,” Emily Crawford, a spokesperson for the Market, said in a release. “But it’s time to start with a clean canvass.”