Capitol Street in downtown Charleston, West Virginia is chock-a-block with beautiful old brick buildings. Tucked away between two of them there is a miniature man made of concrete, a tiny escapee who looks like he’s trying to bust out.
Mortar Man is no bigger than a Happy Meal toy, a two-inch by four-inch sculpture that first appeared as a bit of a mystery. His snug home in the bricks is completely unmarked, and if you don’t know exactly where to look, you’ll pass him right by.
The figure was created by local sculptor P. Joseph Mullins, who is best known for his design of the Veterans Memorial at the West Virginia Capitol Building. Mullins was working on the façade of a building next door, and he had some left-over concrete mortar. On a whim he made the sculpture and tucked him up between the two buildings, about 12 feet off the ground. Mortar Man quietly watched the world go by, slowly building himself a fan club, until some renovations saw him removed. The little guy had become a bit of a mascot for the area, and enough people complained that he was carefully returned to his rightful place, overlooking the 100 block of Capitol Street.
Thousands of people still pass by Mortar Man and don’t know he’s there. If they’re lucky though, they’ll see a gawker or two gazing up between the buildings, trying to catch a glimpse. If they know where to look, they may just find the spot. Sometimes it really does take a village.
Know Before You Go
The only way to see Mortar Man is from the sidewalk. Walk to 108 Capitol Street, which is between Quarrier and Virginia, two blocks from the river. Look between the buildings, to the left side of the facade of #108. There is a narrow column of bricks between the two buildings, and at the top of the column, between the first and second stories, you will see him squeezing out from between the bricks. He can be tricky to find, so be patient.