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Seattle loses its last Elephant Car Wash location

Aug. 7, 2021 Updated Sat., Aug. 7, 2021 at 3:39 p.m.

A crow sits Thursday atop the sign at the final Elephant Car Wash in Seattle. The Sodo neighborhood location along Fourth Avenue, the first to open in the city, has closed.  (Bettina Hansen/Seattle Times)
A crow sits Thursday atop the sign at the final Elephant Car Wash in Seattle. The Sodo neighborhood location along Fourth Avenue, the first to open in the city, has closed. (Bettina Hansen/Seattle Times)
By Daniel Wu Seattle Times

The last of Seattle’s iconic pink elephants could soon be leaving its perch.

The Elephant Car Wash in the Sodo neighborhood – the first of the local chain’s locations to open – is no more.

Elephant Car Wash did not respond to requests for comment Thursday, but the location has been removed from the company’s website. Leavitt Capital Companies, which manages the building on Fourth Avenue, confirmed the car wash’s lease ended on July 31.

The two iconic signs from Elephant Car Wash’s downtown branch on Battery Street were taken down after the site permanently closed last year.

Those signs were donated to the Museum of History & Industry in South Lake Union and Amazon. They are currently being restored at signage shop Western Neon, which coincidentally is located opposite the car wash.

It’s unclear for now what Sodo’s pink pachyderm’s fate will be, or whether it will join its compatriots across the street. The building has been cleared out, but Leavitt Capital Companies could not confirm plans for the future of the location or the sign.

The Elephant Car Wash was the first automatic car wash in Washington. Its distinctive neon signs, designed by prolific Seattle artist and “Queen of Neon” Beatrice Haverfield, have been one of the quirkier staples among Seattle’s landmarks for the past 70 years.

“It was a landmark when (people) came down Highway 99,” said Dylan Neuwirth, Western Neon’s creative director, referring to the signs removed from Battery Street last year. “When they came to the city, they would go to the pink elephant.”

While the signs on Battery Street were the most well-known, the Sodo Elephant Car Wash was the first branch to open in 1951, five years before the downtown site.

“They’re all part of the same fabric,” Neuwirth said. “It’ll be a shame to see that one go too.”

Elephant Car Wash still runs 15 car wash locations, according to its website, including branches in Federal Way, Burien and Bellevue. But for now, it looks like the last pink elephant in Seattle will need a new home.

“I basically just don’t want it to go quietly into the night,” Brothers said. “I would like it to live on, somehow.”

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