Polk County Courthouse
500 Mulberry St, Des Moines, IA 50309, USA
| +1 515-286-3772
Mon - Fri 8am - 4:30pm
Goblins at the courthouseMost 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.