Old Houses and Outhouses

By: Conrad Neuf , Contributing Writer
In: Old Houses, Old House Musings, Old House History

It has been an unusual winter in this area. I believe we normally average about 12-14 inches of snow every year, but this winter we had close to 24 inches prior to Christmas. Since then we have had several small snows, and then almost another 24 inches this past Friday and Saturday, and supposedly another possible 12 inches tonight and tomorrow. I happen to love snow, I think there are few things in nature as beautiful as a freshly fallen snow, so for me, and all of the children who have been off school so much this winter, it has been great.

Unfortunately, there was a price to pay for this last large snow, my electricity which almost never goes off, went off from tree limbs coming down. The temperature went down to -8 degrees that night, and even with some kerosene heaters going, I had some plumbing lines freeze. It brought to mind a vow I made to myself many years ago when I was in the military, and that was that I would never take for granted an indoor bathroom, a hot shower, or a warm, soft bed.

I think we sometimes forget that it wasn’t that long ago that outhouses were in use at many houses, especially in rural areas. According to Living History Farm, the 1930’s brought indoor bathrooms to many of the rural farms in Nebraska. The 1930’s are fairly recent, my grandparents would have been in their late 20’s then. My house was built in 1925, and it’s obvious that the bathroom was not a part of the original house. My parent’s old house, which was built in the late 1700’s, still has the outhouse standing about 30 yards behind the house. Many of the old houses I bicycle past during the summer still have outhouses in their yards.

I started doing some research on the subject, and discovered that there are Internet sites devoted to old outhouses. I don’t know why I wouldn’t have expected that, you can find Internet sites devoted to just about anything, but it did surprise me. There is a site about the outhouses of the old west. I saw something I had never seen before on that site, and that was a 2 story outhouse. Evidently in some of the western states 2 story outhouses were built due to the possibility of drifting snow making a conventional outhouse inaccessible.

If you ever wondered if there was a site about the Outhouse Museum, today is your lucky day. Thinking about an unusual vacation this year, how about the Outhouses of America Tour? It’s not an official tour, just a group of outhouse devotees who go out of their way to find unusual outhouses while on vacation.

Luckily, I have only had to use an old outhouse a few times in my life, and that was a long time ago. It is one part of the living in an old house experience that I don’t mind taking a pass on, and I don’t feel like I’m really missing out on anything, especially on those snowy -8 degree nights.