Seattle Icon: Elephant Car Wash

The neon pink elephant on Battery Street and Denny Way is a local landmark and, rumor has it, the most-photographed landmark in Seattle. I admire it every time I drive past so it’s about time I made the trip on foot so I could visit the photogenic elephant, myself.

The downtown pink elephant was constructed in 1956, predating the Space Needle by 6 years (it is hard to imagine this neighborhood without the Space Needle!). This is the second Elephant Car Wash location. The first, on 4th Avenue and Lander Street, was constructed in 1951 and was the first automatic car wash in Washington. There are multiple newer locations, but the original iconic pink elephants remain.



Battery Street is home to two of the elephant signs, one large rotating sign and a smaller stationary sign. The larger sign is one of the landmarks depicted by local artist Amy Douglas in her show, “Present.” As emphasized by Amy, this elephant is place-making at its finest. Next time you’re in Seattle Center, I hope you’ll make the trip from the Space Needle, crossing under the monorail tracks and a few blocks down to meet the elephant.


Sources and further reading:

The Elephant Car Wash detail their history, here.

The most photographed icon? Could be! Read more here.

If you missed it, I did a write up on Amy Douglas and her artwork: Preservation Meets Art. You can also check out her website here, and her print of the pink elephant here.

What about the Space Needle? Check out my previous blog, Five Greatest Things About the Space Needle. I can’t not take a picture every time I see it (example one, example two). Or a video (example one, example two). I also couldn’t help but include it in my Heart Bomb event in February. Can you blame me?




One thought on “Seattle Icon: Elephant Car Wash

  1. I love seeing this pink elephant come up when I visit secretknowledgeofspaces! It makes me smile every time.
    This particular blog is also particularly thought-provoking to this reader. Who would have thought that a car wash sign (or a large, neon-accented pink elephant, for that matter) would be such a fond reminder of a place? … to so many people? … for so many years? I’ve been looking at familiar places I travel through with new eyes, and thinking about other unexpected icons.

    Liked by 1 person

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