Herald and Journal
Herald & Journal, February 15, 1999

Tale of the two-story outhouse


Now I've heard everything.

There is a two-story outhouse in a little town in Illinois that was built in 1869. It's located in Gays, a town of around 2,000 people, 45 miles south of Champaign, Ill. Let me tell you all about it.

It all begins when Samuel Gamill built his general store in 1869 across from the train depot in Gays. Apartments were above the store.

Stairs and a short ramp connected the apartment dwellers to the outhouse's second level. The setup prevented them from having to walk all the way down to the ground and gave them privacy away from the store's customers, who used the first floor.

Each level had two holes, one designed for a man, the other for a woman . . . a common practice when it came to privies.

By 1984, the store was torn down, but the outhouse remained and was restored. Now, it stands on its own in the middle of a small park.

While travelers stop to marvel at the little building, they can't try it out. The building is padlocked to keep out vandals and the occasional passers-by who can't resist.

Now, every one of you are wondering, "How could people use the top and the bottom without a disaster for those below?" Over the years, the secret has leaked out: The holes on the top level are set back farther than the ones below. A false wall hides the difference.

The city fathers of Gays are working to win grant money to install a visitors log and build a stairway. The original steps and ramp were destroyed with the store, and a ladder is required to reach the top level.

They've also thought about sponsoring an outhouse festival and decorating the building for Christmas.

I don't know if the Twin Cities newspapers covered this story. The Milwaukee and Watertown, Wis. papers featured this Associated Press story. I didn't want you to miss it.

Why is it when you transport something by ship, it's cargo . . . and when you transport by car, it's a shipment?

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