Believe it or not, this is actually the second two-story outhouse I have encountered in my life. I discovered the first one, which I actually used, nearly 50 years ago and in another country.
But more about that later.
This one’s right here in the US of A. It’s in tiny Gays, Illinois (it’s growing though, having jumped from 260 souls in 2000 to a whopping 657 in 2010).
Now standing alone in a small park at the corner of North Pine and Front streets, the outhouse was attached to a two-story building when it was built in the late 1800s. Downstairs was a general store and upstairs were apartments. The upstairs portion of the outhouse was for the apartment dwellers and the downstairs part for store patrons.
As you can see in the old photo below, a walkway on the second floor connected it to the building, which was torn down in 1984.
So, how did that work, you may wonder. This was a four-holer, two upstairs and two downstairs. And no, one didn’t have to worry about something dropping from above. The upstairs and downstairs holes were offset, with the upper ones closest to the back of the tower. The waste from the top floor dropped behind a false wall into a pit at the bottom, out of sight, if not sound, of folks using the lower level.
Below is an overall view of the park, and photos of all the newspaper clippings posted in the kiosk and the stone honoring Gene Goodwin, a town official who made it his mission to preserve the outhouse. (All photos by Ron Haines)
Once there were two-story skyscrappers all over the place, built usually for the convenience of folks who lived or had bedrooms on the second floors. There are still a handful of these around. And I did run across some stories of a second story being built on outhouses in regions where deep snow was a constant problem in the winter.
With the advent of piped plumbing, of course, facilities on upper stories became architecturally much simpler.
And now to my personal experience with a two-story outhouse. It was in Sheno, Ethiopia, of all places, back in 1967.
Sheno was at that time a very small town about 45 miles from Addis Ababa on the then-gravel Highway One, which linked Addis with Asmara in Eritrea, in the north. The bus ride to Sheno took half a day as I recall. Today, with the roads paved, I am sure it is quicker.
My Peace Corps volunteer friend and colleague, Bob Hazlett, was stationed there. I couldn’t find any figures online, but I would guess that in 1967 there were not more than a couple hundred residents, and way more than that on market day. The population there in 2005 was 10,000, double the figure from 1994.
Bob rented the upper floor (two rooms) of a two-story, mud-walled building. His place overlooked a huge dirt field that on Saturdays was the site of a massive market that drew thousands of sellers and buyers. He had a terrific view of the action.
His landlord, trying hard to please the new foreigner in town, built a slender, two-story addition to the structure when Bob moved in. It was Bob’s very own two-story outhouse, with a hole on the top floor and a pit way down at the bottom of the first floor.
No, Bob does not have a photo of that. I asked him just the other day.
And no, we never asked the first floor residents what they thought of the arrangement.