During the construction of Altgeld Hall from 1895-1899, eleven "grotesques" were placed along the "battlements" and central tower of the building. A "grotesques" is different from a "gargoyle" in that the latter was a water-spout, often grotesquely carved, to carry overflowing water from the roof; while the former was simply a decorative sculptured art form combining human and animal characteristics. Both types of figures decorated medieval buildings, as they do Altgeld Hall, a copied late 19th century form of late medieval "castle" architecture. Governor Altgeld took an enthusiastic, if not arbitrary, interest in the architecture that was used for a number of public buildings built during his four years in office. The governor, a German immigrant, was particularly fond of architecture bulit in the Tudor Gothic or English-Castle style, because it resembles "the old castles along the Rhine River in Germany."
Nine of the orginial eleven grotesques are still in place: seven on the central tower above the main (south) entrance, one on the southeast battlements, and one on the east battlement, which you can see to your left above the east entrance to the buliding.
The grotesque in the garden between Altgeld Hall and Still Hall originally stood above the west entrance. It fell by lightening on October 14, 1966. After repair, the grotesque was installed in the garden in the Spring of 1973, and continues to sit on display for NIU students and visitors to this day.