Historic 2-story outhouse.

Two-Story Outhouse has a Savior

Vicki Cole has walked and driven past an abandoned two-story outhouse in her town for 34 years. Now, she and her husband own it.

Vicki, a real estate agent, bought the outhouse in Cedar Lake, Michigan -- and the home/store that was attached to it by an elevated bridge -- and plans to turn them, respectively, into a photo-op tourist attraction and a Victorian bed and breakfast.

The history of this double-decker dumper is fairly well established, thanks to our knowledgeable tipsters. The man who built it had a lumber office on the first floor of his home. To shield his seven daughters, who lived on the second floor, from the uncouth lumbermen, he built the two-story outhouse. The second floor, with the bridge, was exclusively for the ladies.

The bridge fell down some time after the 1950s, and both the outhouse and the home are in "really, really bad shape," according to Vicki. The outhouse has become The Leaning Outhouse; its foundation is crumbling. Both structures were built in 1875, making the multi-story privy one of the oldest that we've encountered.

Outhouse in need of restoration.

Vicki and her husband bought the outhouse because they want to save it, and because they know that a lot of people in Cedar Lake feel the same way. "It's been a big love for a lot of people in the area," Vicki told us. "It's always been there. I went to school up that road, my folks went to school up that road. It's always been a part of our history." The townspeople especially didn't want some outsider buying the outhouse and moving it to some far-away collection. "Everybody told us how glad they were that we bought it," Vicki said, "because they knew that we would not tear down the outhouse or let it be moved from Cedar Lake."

The outhouse has eight holes, four on each floor, each of the four a different size. This was not to promote family togetherness, Vicki told us, but so that smaller people could find a reassuring size. "One of the biggest fears that people had with those things was falling in, you know."

Logistically, Vicki explained, the bottom floor is a little narrower to allow a "free fall" from the upper floor.

After the bridge and the outhouse are repaired, Vicki and her husband want to collect late-1800s period clothing so that people can pose outside the outhouse for novelty photos. "We're still debating whether or not we'll let anybody sit inside it for a picture," Vicki told us. "We might."

Vicki also told us of an aspect of outhouse tourism with which we were unfamiliar. "We've been offered money," she told us. "'I'll pay you twenty bucks if you let us use it.'" Vicki's response? "Nope. Uh-uh."

[11/19/2007]
Address:
7620 N. Academy Rd, Cedar Lake, MI
Directions:
From US Hwy 127 drive 18 miles west on Hwy 46 to Cedar Lake. Turn south on Academy Rd and it is the second house on the left past Pine Rd. The outhouse is out back.
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