NEWS

Seattle's Famous 'Gum Wall' Gets Cleaned Off

11/11/2015 05:39 EST | Updated 11/11/2015 06:59 EST

SEATTLE — A piece of Seattle history is coming down — or rather, 1 million little pieces.

Crews are cleaning up the city's famed "gum wall'' near Pike Place Market, where tourists and locals have been sticking their used chewing gum for the past 20 years.

The wall is plastered with wads of gum in a kaleidoscope of colours, some stretched and pinched into messages, hearts and other designs. People also have used the gooey gobs to paste up pictures, business cards and other mementos.

On Tuesday, powerful steam cleaners were melting it all off.

Emily Crawford, a Pike Place Market spokeswoman, said that following a busy summer season, market leaders decided now was as good a time as any to wipe the wall clean. But they expect people will start leaving gum on the space again soon.

"It's an icon. It's history,'' said onlooker Zoe Freeman, who works near Pike Place. "The market is famous for the gum wall. But it also draws rats.''

Pike Place Market hired a contractor, Cascadian Building Maintenance, to take on the cleaning. They chose steam over pressure-washing to conserve the historic market's brick walls.

On Tuesday, a fruity, sweet smell wafted through the alley as workers in protective suits blasted the dried gum with moist air.

"I just hope that the citizens of Seattle don't hate me for removing the gum wall,'' said Kelly Foster, the contractor's general manager.

People first began smooshing their gum to the wall while waiting for shows at the nearby Market Theater. Since then, the "gum wall'' has expanded beyond one wall and onto other walls of an alley, pipes and even the theatre's box office window.

Crawford said the cleaning crew will collect and weigh the gum each day it is removed. The cleaning is expected to take three days.

By Crawford's rough calculation, there are about 2,200 pounds of gum on the walls.

"We'll find out at the end of the week how right my guesstimate really is,'' she said.

Market officials hope to contain where people put their gum in the future but say they aren't holding their breath.

Also on HuffPost

  • The pho is pho real.
    Flickr: 40726522@N02
    The density of Vietnamese restaurants in Seattle is unreal. One of the most renowned is Than Brothers, a local chain serving up the best bowls of pho. There are at least 45 restaurants in Seattle with pho in their name, and even more Vietnamese restaurants that serve it. (And FYI, it's pronounced "fuh," not "foh.")
  • Cream cheese + hot dog = The Seattle Dog.
    Seattle Magazine
    It even has its own Wikipedia page. I mean, just ... come on now.
  • The coffee is knock-out good. But it's NOT from Starbucks.
    Original photo: Starbucks
    Don't even think about suggesting that Starbucks is the coffee of Seattle. (Or Seattle's Best, for that matter.) There's a little espresso drive-thru just about everywhere you turn. Or, if you're looking for a place to sit, check out Caffe Vita, Victrola, Caffe Ladro, or Vivace.
  • Pike Place Market. Because, duh.
    Flickr: visualsensory
    This is a food lover's paradise (and a flower lover's paradise too). Sure, you can pick up a bounty of fresh produce and check off items on your grocery list, but you should also try the baked salmon sandwich at Three Girls, a bag of cinnamon sugar donuts from Daily Dozen Donuts, or crumpets and tea at The Crumpet Shop. Feeling overwhelmed by the copious options? Head to the Athenian and take a moment to gather your thoughts with the coldest beer in Seattle while watching The Seattle Great Wheel as the ferries come in.
  • Speaking of Pike Place Market, how about those geoducks?
    Flickr: mirvettium
    No, they're not pronounced "geo-ducks," but rather more like "gooey ducks." Sure, that doesn't make them sound any more appetizing, but fans of the mollusk think they're pretty glorious despite being incredibly unattractive.
  • Speaking of geoducks, there's fresh seafood everywhere.
    Flickr: hadaway
    Salmon, smoked salmon, dungeness crab, oysters, halibut ... just try to escape it. You'll never have to buy frozen fish again. (And yes, even the locals like to watch the fish being thrown at Pike Place Market.)
  • All that fresh fish means exceptional sushi.
    Shiro's
    Shiro’s is an institution that you need to check out. Chef Daisuke Nakazawa, who was trained by Jiro Ono of the popular documentary "Jiro Dreams of Sushi," worked at Shiro’s prior to opening his spot in New York, Sushi Nakazawa.
  • The chowder rivals New England's.
    Flickr: cowhntrx
    A Seattleite will tell you that Ivar's clam chowder destroys anything made in New England, any day. Take that.
  • There's legal marijuana. And it's in the food, too.
    Brent Hofacker via Getty Images
    Now that marijuana is legal in Washington State, pot has made its way into food, drink and baked goods. Places like Uncle Ike's not only sell weed, but delicious baked goods, too. Need we say more?
  • Dick's is the perfect late-night pick-me-up.
    Flickr: darwinbell
    Dick's Drive-In has been a Seattle institution since 1954, serving up old school burgers and shakes. Order from the window (it's not a drive-thru type of place) off the menu, which doesn't feature a single item over $2.90. Open late, it's the perfect meal after a boozy night.
  • The locals have fully embraced the farm-to-table movement.
    Damn The Weather
    The city is loaded with farm-to-table restaurants, and one of the newest restaurants achieving this style at a high level is Damn the Weather at Pioneer Square. A beautiful, romantic and cozy space, Damn the Weather isn't solely about delicious, reasonably priced food (the Caesar salad sandwich is a revelation) -- it's also got perfectly crafted, incredibly inventive cocktails.
  • The microbreweries are on fleek.
    Elysian Brewing
    Seattle and the Pacific Northwest in general have an abundance of microbreweries, one the best of which being Elysian (which, sadly, has just been sold to Anheuser-Busch). There's also Black Raven Brewing Company, Georgetown, and Hilliard's, to name a few.
  • Even the cupcakes are socially conscious.
    Cupcake Royale
    Crazily, Cupcake Royale is the nation's first cupcake bakery to open outside of New York City. Their flour comes from local wheat farmers, their dairy is local and growth hormone free, and their eggs are cage-free organic. They also give away 40,000 cupcakes every year to raise funds for local non-profits, so these are cupcakes you don't need to feel guilty about.
  • It's easy to find hard-to-find ingredients.
    Flickr: camknows
    Uwajimaya is one of the largest Asian grocery stores in the Pacific Northwest, where you can basically find every Asian ingredient you can't find anywhere else. Want to make your own dashi for your ramen? This is the place to go. (They also make a mean cup of tea and coffee.)
  • The Mexican food is affordable and phenomenal.
    Flickr: sea-turtle
    For cheap eats (the best kind), check out Rancho Bravo. Located in an old KFC building in Seattle's "hip" Capitol Hill neighborhood, this place fills you up for $5. The locals also recommend El Camion in Ballard for their $1.50 tacos, and the burrito is big enough to last you all day. If you smile while you order, you might just get a Mexican Coke on the house.
  • Two words: Seattle teriyaki.
    Flickr: rheaney
    The immigrant culture in Seattle has created its own version of teriyaki that really hasn’t been replicated anywhere else.
  • Blackberries. They're everywhere.
    Monkey Business Images via Getty Images
    Blackberries are so abundant in the Pacific Northwest that they're actually considered an invasive species. This means a plethora of blackberries pies, jams, ice creams, cocktails, and more. Make sure to pay the region a visit at the end of summer to find them at their peak.
  • Ezell's Famous Chicken has the market cornered on frying.
    Flickr: scarequotes
    Esquire named this stuff "the most life-changing fried chicken in America." Bonus points for having gizzards and livers on the menu, which ups the street cred. Get yourself to an Ezell's, stat.
  • You'll make best friends with Molly Moon.
    Flickr: sea-turtle
    Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream shops are basically filled with magic and happiness, and they make flavors like "Scout" Mint and Bruleed Grapefruit Sorbet, and Meyer Lemon. Seen here: Thai iced tea ice cream. Sigh.
  • It's home to some of the best vegetarian sandwiches ever.
    The Honey Hole
    The Honey Hole is a sandwich shop that'll change the way you think about those little slabs of bread and cold-cuts you pack for work. According to our sources, their vegetarian sandwiches alone are worth the trip (don't worry, carnivores, they've got plenty of meaty options, too).
  • Rachel’s Ginger Beer is everything.
    Rachel's Ginger Beer
    Fresh, fragrant, and not too sweet, Rachel's Ginger Beer comes in flavors like Strawberry Rhubarb, Asian pear, Cranberry-Apricot, Blueberry, and Carrot Beet.
  • Apples, man. Apples.
    Helen Cathcart via Getty Images
    Seattlelites love their cider (make sure you hit up Capitol Cider). Why do they love it so much? Oh, I don't know. Maybe because Washington State produces about 70 percent of the apples grown in the United States. HOW ABOUT THEM APPLES. *mic drop*