Go Back

The Pittsburgh Potty Phenomenon

In the beginning of September, Sarah Kovash from Pittsburgh’s NPR News Station wrote an article, Documenting The Pittsburgh Potty: An Architectural Mystery In Our Basements. In the article, Pittsburgh resident Ted Zellers has been putting together a photography project of various “Pittsburgh Potties” from all over the city.

A “Pittsburgh Potty” is what appears to be a toilet in the basement of older homes from mainly between 1880 and 1910. What makes them extremely unique is the randomness and lack of privacy they tend to have – most are completely out in the open with no surrounding walls or other type of usual privacy.

What seems to be making the Pittsburgh Potty even more interesting is the uncertain history or reasoning behind them. Regardless they are not only a bit on the comical side they are also functioning which makes them extremely practical, especially in a home with many family members.

Although this isn’t the type of toilet you’re likely to have the guests use, with a little privacy constructed around it, you can make it more functional and part of your families’ everyday routine.

Pittsburgh Potty privacy ideas:

Curtain – If you’re simply looking for a cheap and easy way to add some privacy to your Pittsburgh Potty, some hooks, wire and a curtain will help you cut to the chase. Attach some hooks to the ceiling, attach the wire to it and hang up a shower curtain.

Walls – Add some privacy with some extra drywall, bricks or cinder blocks you have lying around. This takes a bit more effort but you’ll be adding more privacy while making it more welcoming as well.

Room – With a classic Pittsburgh Potty in the basement, you’re already halfway there to adding a bathroom to the basement. A finished bathroom in the basement increases the value of your home, and with a toilet already in there, the work is halfway done! All you need are some walls, a sink and some style and you’ve got another finished bathroom.