The History of Seattle’s Gum Wall

The Gum Wall is a Seattle icon, but how did it get there? Don’t worry — we’ve got the scoop on this sticky situation.

It all started with a bit of a sticky situation.

In order to understand the history of Seattle’s Gum Wall, it’s important to know what a gum wall is. The wall is made up of discarded chewing gum stuck on the underside of a bench in Post Alley near Pike Place Market. It’s known for being covered in multiple shades of pink, purple and blue, as well as other colors from different brands of gum.

The exact origin of this colorful landmark has been lost over time; however, many people believe that its first appearance was sometime between 1992 and 1993 when Post Alley was built over top some old sidewalks. Other sources claim that it took years before anyone noticed the colorful display because so many pedestrians walk by every day without even noticing it! Either way, we do know how this tradition started: one person put a piece of their discarded gum on an existing piece and then another person did too…and then another person did too…and eventually enough pieces had accumulated there were thousands upon thousands surrounding them!

A wall that stuck had its beginnings in the 1990s.

In the early 1990s, when Seattle was still a small town, with fewer than 500,000 residents and no notable landmarks outside of Pike Place Market, a man named David “Zeb” Burke decided to build a wall.

He did this for one reason: smoke-free air. At the time, smoking was still legal in public places. That meant there were plenty of cigarette smokers who would light up on city streets and sidewalks—and it also meant that businesses could not prevent their patrons from lighting up inside their establishments (unless they had an outdoor patio).

The Gum Wall is easy to find but off the beaten path.

The Pike Place Market is a great place to visit. It’s fun, it’s educational and it’s the best place in Seattle to grab lunch on the cheap. The Market also has its own personality—it takes pride in being off the beaten path, so if you want a truly unique experience, then check out the Gum Wall at Pike Place Market!

Here are some tips for getting there:

  • Take a Lyft or an Uber (or drive yourself) if you can afford it. Parking downtown can be tough and expensive—just ask any local driver how much they’d love your business as they circle around looking for an open spot while you’re trying to enjoy an afternoon with friends at one of Seattle’s most iconic attractions!
  • Bring cash; credit cards are accepted but only in certain shops inside the market itself. This may seem like no big deal until your friend tells everyone else on social media about how much fun she had eating ice cream cones before visiting this amazing landmark known worldwide by locals as simply “The Wall.”

The wall’s days as an attraction were numbered — or so it was thought.

The wall’s days as an attraction were numbered — or so it was thought.

In 2011, the PDA began to worry about the wall’s condition. The bricks were starting to show signs of wear and tear, with some crumbling away completely. Pieces of gum also started falling off onto the sidewalk below, leaving a mess behind. The PDA also worried that if they didn’t do something soon, the wall would become a public health hazard and hurt people walking by.

Although no one ever got sick from the gum (at least not yet), it was still an eyesore — especially compared with other nearby attractions like Pike Place Market and Space Needle!

What goes up must come down, or so they thought.

But what goes up must come down—or so they thought. The wall was removed in 1992, and it was believed that the gum would be scraped off of the walls and recycled or incinerated. However, after a year of protests by locals, the city decided that it was too much effort to remove all of the gum from such a large area. Instead they decided simply to patch over some sections of wall with cement so pedestrians could walk on them again.

It’s been nearly 20 years since this decision was made, but now Seattle wants to restore their beloved landmark once more! They are working with local artists who will make murals out of chewed up pieces of gum collected from around Seattle; however these new murals won’t replace any existing ones because those guys were put there by actual artists (they weren’t just dropped onto walls). If you’re interested in seeing these new works then make sure you check out our Gum Wall Art page for updates about when they’ll open!

The wall is now managed by Pike Place Market Preservation & Development Authority (PDA).

The wall is now managed by Pike Place Market Preservation & Development Authority (PDA). PDA is a nonprofit organization that manages the market. They are responsible for preserving and developing the market.

They’ve implemented new rules for the wall. In order to maintain its historic nature, gum must be placed on its surface by hand, not slapped or thrown on in any way; it’s also against the rules to take pictures with your phone while chewing gum at this site because it gives off an “unprofessional” vibe.

It’s up to PDA staff members to enforce these regulations since they’re responsible for maintaining the wall while keeping it looking authentic and historical—even if they have no idea what you’re talking about when you ask where exactly this Gum Wall came from!

New rules have been implemented for those who want to join in on the fun.

Those who want to participate are asked to follow these rules:

  • Only gum is allowed (no other food or liquids)
  • No stickers or graffiti of any kind
  • No smoking or vaping near the wall (or at all, actually)
  • Don’t litter! Try to keep the area clean and respect those around you.
  • Don’t climb on anything—especially the bricks themselves. They’re not as sturdy as they look! If need be, use caution when sitting in order to avoid damaging them further. Sorry about this one folks but it’s for your own protection…you can catch us later for details!

PDA has found a way to let the tradition live on without harming the bricks.

PDA has found a way to let the tradition live on without harming the bricks. Now that it’s been managed by PDA, new rules have been implemented. In order to preserve the integrity of Pike Place Market, each person is allowed only one piece at a time (and they must be prepared to eat it). The wall is now open for tourists during their visit so they can experience what makes Seattle special: our gum wall!

Seattle’s Gum Wall is a fixture in the city, and it’s not going anywhere. The PDA has worked hard to maintain the tradition while also keeping things clean, which is why their efforts have been so successful. So if you’re ever in Seattle looking for some fun sightseeing with friends or family members, be sure to stop by Pike Place Market!

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