Seattle's Really Gross Gum Wall Goes Back to Being Just a Wall

Twenty years of sticky, filthy, wonderful chewing gum is getting hosed off Seattle's famous landmark, but it will probably return again. 

by Sam Blum

In 1993, some sugar-addled visionary spearheaded a local tradition that transformed an alleyway in Pike’s Place, Seattle, into the city’s gum wall.

After over 20 years of locals and tourists flocking to the Seattle alcove to stick wads of spit-drenched chewing gum to the wall, the landmark is coming down today, literally piece by piece, rinsed clean by workers in hazmat suits.

Here’s a brief video from the scene, it looks not unlike some perilous biohazard situation.

According to local reports, the thorough steam-clean should take up the remainder of the week. Kelly Foster of Cascadian Building Maintenance, which is handling the clean-up, told the Seattle Times that “this is the weirdest job we have ever done.”

She also described the power of the steam hoses used to shower the gum wall as being able to “melt the gum with 280-degree steam” and that the gum “will fall to the ground, and a two- to three-man crew will collect the gum in five-gallon buckets.”

Seattle isn’t the only town on the West Coast with a tradition of coating walls in a smorgasbord of chewing gum: San Luis Obispo, a small college town on California’s central coast, also has a bubble gum alley, although there aren’t any public sanitation workers melting gelatinous globs from it today.

Bubble Gum Alley in San Luis Obispo

daveynin /Flickr Creative Commons

But, as anyone can imagine, the estimated 1 million pieces of sugary gum in Seattle have prevented too much of a public health concern for city officials to cope with.

There haven’t been any regulations put in place — no bubble gum wall bans, if you will — passed in Seattle though, so the bubble gum wall may make a triumphant return in the next 20 years.

We can almost smell it.