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FAQ City: Who Is That Gold Man Statue And Why Is He Missing?

Courtesy of PLCMC, Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Charlotte Observer Collection.
Hugh Pharr McManaway directing traffic at the Queens Road and Providence Road intersection.

For decades, a four-foot gold statue has stood at the intersection of Queens and Providence Road, his right index finger extended. Sometimes he's dressed up for sporting events or weddings at the Methodist church next door. Last September, he disappeared from the intersection, leaving only a few patches of monkey grass where his pedestal stood.

That prompted Charlotte resident Drew Hines to wonder, what happened to him? And who did he represent in the first place?

Credit Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County
Hugh Pharr McManaway

In fact, the statue of "Old Man Traffic" represents a real man known to longtime Charlotteans as Hugh Pharr McManaway. He had the eccentric habit of speaking in rhyme, and for most of the 60s and 70s, he would stand at the intersection and mimic like he was directing traffic - never mind the traffic signal.

When he died, local residents raised money to place a statue of him at the intersection.

But what of his disappearance? Well, police records show he was hit by a drunk driver last September and was knocked clean off his feet. Ever since then, he's been kept in city storage.

On this episode of FAQ City, we set off to track down Hugh's metal likeness, and find him in a secret city warehouse where he's being kept in pieces. Plus, we find out this isn't the first time he's had to take a leave of absence from the intersection, and what the city is planning to do about it.

Credit Charlotte Engineering and Property Management
Credit Charlotte Engineering And Property Management

Special thanks to Drew Hines for sending in this week's question, and thanks also to the City of Charlotte's Engineering and Property Management team for their help.

You can see more of Hugh in the 1978 documentary "Charleen" by director Ross McElwee, available on Amazon.

Do you have any photos or memories dressing up the Hugh McManaway statue? We want to see them! Tweet at us with the hashtag #FAQCity, and we may add your photo to our website.

Also, if you have a question about the Charlotte region that you've been wondering about, we'd love to hear from you. Submit your question in the box below, and we may be in touch.

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Nick de la Canal is a reporter for WFAE covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal