Seattle has some weird landmarks. There’s a market famous for throwing salmon at people, the Space Needle with its rotating restaurant, a “haunted” soda machine, and then there’s the Gum Wall.
It’s exactly what it sounds like, an alley that’s become famed for being coated in layers of gum. We understand that you might be wondering just why this Gum Wall ever came to be. We’ll dive into where the Gum Wall is, how to see it, and why it even exists in the first place.
Let’s get started!
Where is the Seattle Gum Wall Located?
The Seattle Gum Wall is located in Post Alley, a pedestrian-friendly street that connects Pike Place Market down to Madison Street, which is near Seattle’s ferry terminals.
To find the Gum Wall from Pike Place Market, look for where Pike Street takes a sudden left turn and goes underneath the market itself. If you’re looking for a landmark, punch Il Bistro into your phone. The restaurant is located near the opening to Post Alley, simply turn the corner and you’ll be greeted with an alley whose walls are absolutely covered in gum.
Today, the Gum Wall stretches for more than 50 feet and continues to spread. Surprisingly, there’s a notable Seattle bar hidden among all this gum. Alibi Room is one of the best bars in Pike Place Market. It’s a low-key place with cheap beers and excellent pizza. Another business by the Gum Wall is the Market Theater which produces improv shows (we’ll have more on this theater in a minute).
If you’ve found the Gum Wall and gotten your fill of stomach-turning amounts of gum filling the walls, you might want to continue onto the rest of Post Alley that ventures into Pike Place Market. Simply walk back into the market and look for Mr. D’s Greek Delicacies, next to it you’ll see Post Alley resume.
There are a number of outstanding restaurants and bars alongside Post Alley. We’d recommend checking out The Pink Door, Sushi Kashiba, Matt’s in the Market, and Radiator Whiskey as sit-down restaurant ideas. If you’re just looking to grab a quick bite, try ordering a BBQ pork hum bao from Mee Sum Pasty. It’s outstanding.
How Did the Seattle Gum Wall Get Started?
The gum wall traces its origins back to the period between 1991 to 1993. Below Pike Place Market, an improv theater named Unexpected Productions performs at the Market Theater. As you can imagine, there are lines that form before showtimes, and patrons began sticking their gum on the wall of Post Alley.
The important thing to note about the start of Seattle’s Gum Wall is it wasn’t planned. Rather than being some devised tourist attraction, the Gum Wall had modest beginnings. From a grouping of several pieces of gum in one spot, it began to spread across the wall. Initially, employees of the theater would routinely scrape the gum, but as time passed they gave up.
By the 2000s, the gum wall reached 50 feet wide and 15 feet in height. At that point, media attention began focusing on the wall’s proportions. Local publications like The Seattle Times and Post-Intelligencer ran stories on the wall. In 2009, CNN called it one of the ‘germiest’ tourist attractions in the world.
The Gum Wall continued to build until 2015, when the germaphobes finally had their victory.
When Was the Seattle Gum Wall Cleaned?
By 2015, the Gum Wall had built to an estimated one million pieces of gum.
Put another way, an average piece of chewing gum is about 3 grams. That average weight meant the wall could contain up to 6,600 pounds (or 3.3 tons) of gum stuck to the walls of Post Alley. Keeping in mind that the Gum Wall began in 1991, pieces of gum were now about 24 years old.
While the Gum Wall had become a major tourist attraction by 2015, it was within another major tourist attraction, which is Pike’s Place Market and Post Alley. As such, the Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority decided it was time to finally clean the gum and remove its damaging properties to bricks.
A few stats about the Gum Wall cleaning:
- The cleaning began on November 10th, 2015
- To successfully clean the walls, the water reached 280 degrees Fahrenheit
- The amount of gum cleaned off the wall ended up filling 94 buckets and weighed 2,350 pounds (our bet is this final weight didn’t get all the gum!)
- The cleaning took about 130 hours
- On Saturday, November 15th, a flash mob had already met to “re-gum” the wall
What Happened After Seattle’s Gum Wall Was Melted?
The flash mob that met to re-gum the wall was in support of deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, they created a peace sign. The peace sign was promptly cleaned, but the visibility of the Gum Wall meant that tourists and locals continued rebuilding it after the cleaning. Despite the best efforts of the Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority, in the years to come, the Gum Wall would continue growing.
Today, the Gum Wall is likely at its largest size ever. The next time we visit we’ll get an exact measurement, but the Gum Wall now very likely exceeds its 50-foot length when first cleaned in 2015. In addition, portions of the Gum Wall now reach more than 20 feet in height.
If you’re looking to add your own touch of gum to the wall, local businesses like Ghost Alley Espresso will happily sell you a piece of gum.