There are fourteen two story outhouses in the United States. Fourteen. I’ve seen a few. I’m not going to say that “See All 14 Two Story Outhouses” is on my bucket list, but I’m also not prone to missing an opportunity to shenanigan around in an iconic latrine– especially the only one that is technically built like the proverbial brick shithouse.
The historic Howe House and Museum in Phelps, New York is the proud owner of this nation’s only brick two story outhouse. In addition to its solid brick construction, this particular privy also boasts a three and three system–three holes up and three holes down–of graduating size. They are the Mama Bear, the Papa Bear and the Baby bear of Goldilock’s crapper dreams. In naming unique features, there was also some bragging about attachment (that it is attached to the building, which is rare for an outhouse) but both entrances are outside of the building and the largesse of the existing kitchen space (which is the portion of the home attached to the room of requirement) coupled with the age of the home causes me to discount any benefits that “attachment” might have added, since you cannot enter the facility from inside, you must still brave the elements (sometimes across a slippery roof) to, um, evacuate.
Most outdoor lavatories are hole bound meaning that falling, um, objects, end their descent in a large cavity in the ground. While this inauspicious ending was most common, it led to eventual mandatory relocation of the powder room once the earthly receptacle overflowed. This comfort room was a considered a modern marvel as it was equipped with a tray liner which would be removed by household staff regularly and scraped into an offsite repository thus preventing any eventual physical need for attached commode expatriation.
The Phelps Six Holer (they’ve yet to name the john officially, so I’m brainstorming here) is no longer open for ‘business,’ plainly speaking and, though I am a rule evader by nature, the maintenance level and restoration of this particular loo did not invite me to push this particular envelope BUT, I had not known that prior to making this potty a destination on my route. My VERY LONG route. The route upon which I had consumed almost a case of lime flavored fizzy water. Which wanted to give a novel litter box a little whirl. Really. Now, I had mistakenly assumed that the two story throne was the primary attraction of the building. I mean, why else would a tourist pull off the expressway and drive down the main street of Phelps? Well, let me tell you a little secret–the docents at the Historic Howe House and Museum think that the magnificent poopatorium is but an annoying barnacle on the butt of an otherwise lovely HALF HOUR long tour of a partially restored old house where each room contains a curated collection of ennui inducing curiosities.
Now, before I tell you about these roomfuls of curated artifacts, I would like to restate that I HAD TO PEE. BADLY. I wince/smiled through an introduction to the history of the house and a peek into the genealogy room where the history of every family in the city of Phelps can be researched. I clandestinely pee pee danced through the oral history of the Howe family and tried to look interested in their portraits and family tree. I alternated crossed legs in a room filled with doll houses made to represent the various historic residences in the city of Phelps. I almost peed in the kitchen sink. There was a touch and go moment when my guide tried to tell me that the outhouse was not available for public viewing–that it was just somewhere where they stored cleaning supplies and empty pails (the humor of this was lost on her and I didn’t have the heart to explain or giggle besides, I was sure that giggling would be disastrous at that juncture). I am not sure whether it is my ridiculous capacity for sweet talk or the desperate and ridiculous look in my floating eyes, but she did finally take pity on me and show me the interior of both stories of the iconic head.
I wish that I could share with you some artful and transcendental photography from dramatic angles that is professionally lit. What you get, however, are the clandestinely shot grainy snaps taken with my smartphone, of an unlit room, on a grey rainy day, whenever my guide looked the other direction for a millisecond–around a bevy of dirty mops and precariously stacked debris. In the end, I chose not to avail myself of this unique can, but to avail myself of the hospitality of a gas station toilet up the street. What can I say, apparently my wild conjectures about sneaking in for a trespass tinkle didn’t hold water.
P.S. If you were counting (or if you weren’t) that’s twenty, yep, TWENTY euphemisms for bathroom–which I chose not to use since there was obviously NOT a bath. I also avoided all terms that inferred running water would be present. I really can’t figure out how I managed to marry a normal person. What was he thinking? Truly. He should get a medal.