Pike Place Market in Seattle is known for its fresh seafood, the birthplace of Starbucks Coffee and a very odd tourist attraction: a wall of chewing gum, which this week had its first wash in over twenty years.
Called the “gum wall,” it’s a landmark where locals and visitors alike have squished and stuck more than 1 million pieces of old chewing gum on an alleyway wall. Chunks of the sticky stuff, in some areas several centimetres thick, have been strategically placed and stretched, forming a rainbow of colours.
This week a worker in a plastic protective suit and mask used a steam cleaner to blast off parts of the wall where many have used their gum to anchor photos, love notes, business cards and artwork.
The tradition began around 1993 when patrons of a local theatre group stuck gum to the wall of nearby Market Theater and placed coins in them. Theatre workers scraped the gum away but eventually gave up as the tacky business continued, and in 1999 Market officials deemed the wall a tourist attraction.
“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,” said Emily Crawford, a spokeswoman for the Pike Place Market Preservation Development Authority. “But it’s time to start with a clean canvas.”
The cleaning, expected to take three days, has pleased some and upset many in Seattle and across social media.
In 2009 the wall was named one of the top five germiest tourist attractions in the world.
Photo: Nicola, Flickr, Creative Commons