Fleeting Wonders: Seattle's Gum Wall - Atlas Obscura
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Fleeting Wonders: Seattle’s Gum Wall

Goodnight, sweet Gum Wall. (Photo: jareed/Flickr)

For 20 years, the Gum Wall in downtown Seattle has been growing into a sticky technicolor mural bonded together by hundreds of thousands of strangers’ saliva. Today, everything changes. Today, the Gum Wall gets scrubbed clean.

The Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority (PDA), which manages the waterfront market where the Gum Wall stands, announced that the wall will be washed in order to protect the integrity of its bricks. The estimated million wads of chewing gum will be removed beginning at 8 a.m. PST on November 10 in a steam-cleaning process that is expected to take three to four days.

November 9, 1989: the Berlin Wall begins to fall. November 10, 2015: the Gum Wall gets scrubbed. (Photo: Anupam_ts/Flickr)

The tradition of sticking chewed-up gum wads to the wall was established in the ’90s, when people would line up in the alley to buy tickets to improv shows at the Market Theater. Soon, visitors and locals alike began to add their own masticated globs to the wall, eventually creating an eight-foot-high, 54-foot-wide artwork that was equal parts alluring, fascinating, and gross. 

Though the bricks will be thoroughly scrubbed, the Gum Wall is not gone forever. PDA Director of Communications and Marketing Emily Crawford said in the announcement that the beloved “crowd-sourced piece of public art” will live on—it’s just “time to start with a clean canvas.”

Every day, we track down a fleeting wonder—something amazing that’s only happening right now. Have a tip for us? Tell us about it! Send your temporary miracles to cara@atlasobscura.com.