Before Hoosiers had plentiful running water and gleaming porcelain fixtures, we built tiny wood shacks over holes in the backyard and, uh…dropped our kids off at the pool, unloaded timber, voided, number #2’ed, grew monkey tails, downloaded the software…
You know. Pooped.
Outhouses have been a fixture of American life, and Hoosier life, longer than any toilet. The greatest American heroes and champions pooped in outhouses. Lincoln pooped in them. So did Washington. Just like the children’s book says, “Everybody Poops“…in outhouses, at least until the late 1800s.
For, uh, obvious reasons, these have disappeared across the country, resurrected only partially in porta-potties. But occasionally you still spy them, usually as a tongue-in-cheek yard decoration or as a carefully-preserved relic.
But if search engines and outhouse articles (like this story from Michigan State University) just can’t seem to satisfy your itch for information on architecture’s most useful edifice, then there’s a place you should go…and it’s in Indiana.
Tucked in Indiana’s northwest corner, there’s a thriving burg called Huntington, known as the “Lime City” for the mountains of limestone produced by it’s quarries. Just to the south and slightly west of the city sits the Tel-Hy Nature Preserve, about forty acres of Indiana’s native flora and fauna, along with a sprightly little hiking trail and an excellent view of the Wabash River. It’s worth checking out all on its own.
The preserve contains a bonus treat for outhouse enthusiasts: a collection of a dozen outhouses and early pit toilets. Visitors can examine and explore the craft and effort dumped into these small structures…just don’t try to use them. You’ll particularly enjoy seeing a two-seater outhouse, which makes for some interesting imagery. I guess it harkens back to a time when people weren’t as obsessed with privacy.
What? Still not enough?
I’ve got one last treat for the outhouse obsessed. Why not build one yourself? Here’s a link to an Ana White plan for building a fully-functioning outhouse of your very own. Her site’s a little ad-heavy and she loves her Ryobi tools and Kreg jigs, because they’re big sponsors, but her plans are simple, clear and perfect for any weekend woodworker.
*I considered concluding this article with a bad pun, but I decided to pass on that stinky idea.