Less Than Zero

The Trump Countdown Sign in Leschi Has Been Retired

The people behind Seattle’s well-known clock ponder what's next.

By Lindsay Cohen January 21, 2021

Trump countdown sign in Leschi

When it seemed like it would never end.

Image: Nate Bullis

January nights are dark in Seattle, but this one seemed particularly poised for the dawn. There would be no pomp and circumstance outside the Leschi home, despite how many people photographed it over the years. Just one woman, a quick chore, and a 9pm mission: to remove a sole, remaining number from her home’s exterior, and to look forward to the next morning.

Changing the analog cards on a display counting down the days until Donald Trump left the Oval Office is something Lily Onnen did dutifully almost every day for the past 31 months—heck, it was even written into her home’s contract, when she moved into the historic Cape Cod–style home back in 2018. In the years since, as she slowly ticked down the numbers approaching Inauguration Day, she’d receive encouragement from passersby, letters from strangers, and, yes, even an occasional bottle of champagne from a neighbor. “He dropped it off when the election was confirmed [for Joe Biden]. He’s like, ‘Thank you so much. You give me so much hope,’” Onnen says. “That’s all I ever wanted to do, was to just give people hope, like: Someday it will be over.”

That day was Wednesday, when Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States and the numerals from Onnen’s clock officially went into storage. After the ceremony, Onnen planned to climb a ladder and use a screwdriver to remove the rest of the sign—the “DAYS LEFT” part, which was the only piece that remained.

It’s a saga thousands of people followed on Instagram at @trump_counter. While the home and the original sign changed hands in 2018, the social media account stayed with the house’s previous owner, John Holt, when he moved. Holt then recreated the countdown and continued posting from his new houses (he’s moved twice).

Trump countdown sign at zero

We can relate, Zero.

Holt’s final post was at 8:51am Wednesday, one minute after Biden took the oath of office. The timing was intentional, Holt said, as was the text, some of which invoked the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  “I really don’t want the post to be about Mr. Trump leaving Washington,” Holt says. “I want the post to be about the country moving on and being able to rebuild.”

It appears there will be much moving on in the days and weeks to come. Onnen put her house on the market last week, while Holt is still debating what he’ll do with the replica sign and the legacy Instagram account. “Someone suggested that I should post every day something good that has happened—take the counter the other way,” he says. “I'm going to leave [my sign] up for a while with '000' on it. Every day walking by, it’s like touching the statue at Notre Dame: You have to touch it for good luck.”

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