Most people who visit the Polk County Courthouse are too busy fighting traffic tickets (or worse) to notice the 28 stone faces that stare down from the second-story windows. But they're worth a look.
The stone carver who chiseled them out of limestone, when the building went up in 1905, modeled the faces on popular comic-strip characters of the day, including an Irish tramp named Happy Hooligan and his brother, Gloomy Gus. (The contractor wasn't a fan. He ordered the sculptor to replace Happy's tin-can hat with olive branches, turning the tramp into a Grecian god. Gus got a similar promotion.)
If the rumors are true, some of the other faces are less-than-flattering portraits of local politicians. But none of the so-called "grotesques" (as opposed to gargoyles, which channel rainwater) are quite as strange as the old stone guy picking his old stone nose high on a wall at Lincoln High School, south of downtown.
The stone carver must have graduated from a rival school.