The Dorn Pyramid and an alley filled with A.B.C gum in San Luis Obispo.
The Dorn Pyramid in SLO
In 1905 a wealthy lawyer, Fred Adolphus Dorn, lost his wife and son during childbirth and in their honor erected a mysterious pyramid tomb in San Luis Obispo.
The front of the tomb bears the eerie words “DISTVRB NOT THE SLEEP OF DEATH”. The pyramid is a Masonic Symbol, and several of the markings on the pyramid indicate that the Freemasons were involved in the making of this monument for the Dorn family.
Because of its sheer weight, the serpentine rock beneath where it is erected is the only spot in the cemetery that could withstand its bulk. It is estimated to have cost between $75,000 and $100,000.
Some historians believe that the tradition of the alley started after WWII as a San Luis Obispo High School graduating class event.
Others believe it started in the late 1950s, as rivalry between San Luis Obispo High School and California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) students. By the 1970s, Bubblegum Alley was well established. When shop owners complained that it was “unsanitary and disgusting”, the alley underwent a full cleaning.
The gum graffiti survived two full cleanings in the 1970s. In 1996, the BIA unsuccessfully attempted to have another alley cleaning.
An agreement on whether these gum-covered walls should remain a part of quaint downtown San Luis Obispo has not been reached. While the town historian and some local politicians consider this alley to be an “eyesore”, the Chamber of Commerce lists it as a “special attraction”.
The Alley has inspired professional artists such as Matthew Hoffman. On the east end of the alley, up high on the north-facing wall, a giant self-portrait of Hoffman titled “Project Bubble Gum” is created entirely with bubble gum. The picture of the artist blowing a bubble required a tremendous amount of gum, which he was able to get with the help of the community. His theory is, “if an individual participates in their community they will earn an invested interest in their community. The community chewed the bubblegum, and many individuals [felt] as though they were a part of its creation. This instills a sense of stewardship in one’s community.” Deep man.