Elephant Car Wash Sign – Seattle, Washington - Atlas Obscura

Elephant Car Wash Sign

Museum of History and Industry

This giant pink elephant stood in downtown Seattle for more than 60 years. 

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This kitschy pink elephant sign was a resident of Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood for more than 60 years. It has over 380 lights and is constructed from bent neon and steel. The bright and whimsical sign made this Elephant Car Wash location one of the most photographed spots in Seattle.

Elephant Car Wash first opened in the SoDo neighborhood in 1951. In 1956 the owners opened a second location on Battery Street, which included a sign designed by local artist Bea Haverfield, known as Seattle’s “Queen of Neon.” The bright, rotating sign was a hit with locals and visitors alike. Elvis washed his car here in 1963 while he was in town filming It Happened at The World’s Fair and so have many other famous people. The elephant sign also made a cameo in the 2010 movie Love Happens, starring Aaron Eckhart and Jennifer Aniston. 

Up until recently, the sign stood proudly over the car wash, and has been well-preserved (though a few lightbulbs stopped blinking). But in October 2020 a demolition permit was filed for the car wash itself, leaving the fate of the sign in question.

Luckily, this piece of Seattle history will be preserved at the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI). The sign was taken down in November 2020, and is undergoing a restoration process to fix the lights and remove rust. When complete, it will join MOHAI’s vast collection of signage from local businesses, including a 26-foot-tall neon blue flame that once stood above Washington Natural Gas.

Know Before You Go

The sign not currently on display while it undergoes restoration. The car wash where the sign was originally located has closed. A similar, working version of this sign can be found in  Rancho Mirage, California. 

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