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No mystery — Capitol Hill’s mystery soda machine is still missing

Last summer, the mystery of Capitol Hill’s mystery soda machine became mysteriously more mysterious when the mysterious machine mysteriously… vanished. One year and one week later, there is still no trace of the machine beyond its surprisingly robust social media campaign. And, while the clues are pretty much everywhere you look in the machine’s Instagram updates and around its previous home on the sidewalk of E John, the mystery remains.

While SDOT’s improvements to sidewalks along the John and Thomas corridor overlapped with the machine’s disappearance, construction concluded in December 2018, and the former home of the beloved late 20th Century-style soda machine outside Broadway Locksmith remains vacant.

“Wherever it is, we wish it well and hope that it is having a safe and fulfilling journey,” said Ethan Bergerson, SDOT’s media relations lead. 

Dispensing soda at four quarters a can, the machine’s time capsule-esque appearance and “MYSTERY!?!” buttons left passersby guessing the machine’s origins along with which beverage you would receive. The machine’s status as a local legend was confirmed by its growing following on social media platforms, which now provide fans with vague updates on the soda machine’s whereabouts. One of the profile’s more recent posts includes a photo of the machine on the now under demolition Alaskan Way viaduct with the message “Gone for a Walk.”

While the mystery soda machine has garnered media attention and an online following, the identity of its owner remains as much as a mystery as which soda it will dispense. Upon starting construction of the corridor crossing improvements, SDOT attempted to reach out to the machine’s owner, yet they claim logistics hindered this effort.

“We routinely conduct outreach to local businesses, including the Broadway Locksmith, prior to construction but had no way to know if we reached the soda machine owners because it had been operating without a proper sidewalk vending permit and we had no contact information,” Bergerson said.

While the machine drew its power from the business, the location of the machine and the identity of its owner also supposedly remains a mystery to the Broadway Locksmith. Staff speculate the machine could have been vandalized.

“The last we saw it, it was broken. The compressor was busted out, change was all over the place. We figuring the owner came and took it, but we don’t know,” said a representative of the shop.

Last summer, the machine suddenly vanished, leaving a note stating “went for a walk” in its place. The mystery soda machine was found “sight seeing” at Seattle Center having somehow gained PR representation during its hiatus.

While the its whereabouts and reason for its departure remain unknown, the hints and potential updates about the condition of the machine can be found on its Facebook and Twitter. In the meantime, the Broadway Locksmith hopes for the machine’s return, hesitant to find a replacement.

“It’d be nice if it was put back. It’s a great icon, and now we’re looking for a soda machine ourselves to replace it because we don’t have one, and it’s been a while.”


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Don Johnson
Don Johnson
2 years ago

It probably couldn’t afford to live here anymore.

2 years ago

Don’t know if it’s related but I saw a guy angrily beating and kicking the machine a short time before it disappeared. I wanted to intervene but I was afraid of becoming the new target. Can’t have nice things. :-(

2 years ago
Reply to  Neighbor

I live right above the Locksmith in the Capitol Building. I’d go out for a smoke on our stairwell, and had a line of sight to the soda machine. A few weeks before it disappeared, it had stopped working altogether. So I’d watch drunks on the weekend put change into the machine, and then kick the shit out of it after not getting a soda. I think it got enough damage to it that the owner removed it before it got destroyed.

2 years ago

The owner responded .It exsplained it were the cost.
Sad it’s gone. It was something special. Why did not any corporation then reach out. Like do many icons of the holl Sad.

Bill black
Bill black
1 year ago

The locksmith owner had no ideas who it was but he happily payed for the electricity to keep it running and has no knowledge of who tapped into his buildings electricity? Yea ok