J.P. Patches Statue – Seattle, Washington - Atlas Obscura
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Seattle, Washington

J.P. Patches Statue

Leave a button on the jacket of this iconic Seattle clown. 

Honoring a television clown beloved throughout the Pacific Northwest, the J.P. Patches Statue stands as a testament to the bond between an adoring audience and a dedicated performer.

The J.P. Patches Show premiered on KIRO-TV Channel 7 in Seattle in 1958. The unscripted, unrehearsed children’s program featured (with rare exceptions) only two on-camera performers: Chris Wedes, who played the titular character Julius Pierpont Patches; and Bob Newman, who played virtually the entire supporting cast of ten-some-odd characters. The show aired live, twice a day (before and after school), Monday through Saturday, for 13 YEARS. After that, they cut back from 12 to only six live performances per week (dropping the after-school show) for another eight years, then did only the Saturday morning show for the final two years. Upon going off the air in 1981, Wedes and Newman had logged over 10,000 hours of live on-air time.

Unsurprisingly, the show developed quite a following in the Puget Sound area and southwestern British Columbia, boasting an audience of over 100,000 in local markets — as well as others as far away as Des Moines, Iowa. “The Mayor of the City Dump” according to official canon, J.P. Patches was popular with children and parents alike, thanks to his use of double entendre and understated subversiveness mixed with useful life lessons.

First proposed in 2006, the J.P. Patches Statue was funded primarily through fan donations. It was unveiled in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle on August 17, 2008, to a crowd of 1,500 “Patches’ Pals,” decked out in their fan gear and giddy to catch a glimpse of the childhood TV pal. They cheered wildly, they laughed, they cried; just a year earlier, Wedes had announced that he’d been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a terminal blood cancer. It would ultimately claim his life on July 22, 2012, at the age of 84.

A life-sized portrayal of J.P. Patches and his girlfriend Gertrude (played by Newman), the official name of the statue is Late for the Interurban, a sly reference to the nearby iconic Fremont sculpture Waiting for the Interurban. The installation includes a place to leave buttons on Patches’ famously button-laden jacket, as well as a bronze ICU2TV box (a prop on the show that J.P. Patches used in wishing fans happy birthday) that accepts donations, which go to Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Know Before You Go

North 34th Street, about 250 feet east of the intersection with Fremont Avenue North, in the Fremont section of Seattle