Pittsburgh toilet

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A Pittsburgh toilet

A Pittsburgh toilet, or Pittsburgh potty, is a common fixture in pre-World War II houses built in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States and the surrounding region. It consists of an ordinary flush toilet installed in the basement, with no surrounding walls. Most of these toilets are paired with a crude basement shower apparatus and large sink, which often doubles as a laundry basin. Also, because western Pennsylvania is a steep topographical zone, many basements have their own entryway, allowing homeowners to enter from their yard or garage, cleanse themselves in their basement, and then ascend their basement stairs refreshed. Its primary function was to serve as a cleanup station for steel mill workers to clean themselves after returning from work. The toilet fixtures would also limit the harm of sewage backups in hilly Pittsburgh, providing a lower, flushable outlet than the main part of the house.[1]


The most popular explanation for the Pittsburgh toilet is related to Pittsburgh's status as a major industrial city in the 20th century. According to this explanation, toilets such as these were said to be used by steelworkers and miners who, grimy from the day's labor, could use an exterior door to enter the basement directly from outside and use the basement's shower and toilet before heading upstairs.[2][3][4]

Some have argued that Pittsburgh toilets in fact became popular for reasons other than the needs of industrial workers, and that they instead mainly served to prevent sewage backups from flooding the living areas of homes. As sewage backups tend to flood the lowest fixture in a residence, a Pittsburgh toilet would be the fixture to overflow.[5]


  1. ^ "What the heck is a 'Pittsburgh potty' and why is it in the basement?". TODAY.com. Retrieved 2019-12-26.
  2. ^ Kirkland, Kevin (May 22, 2004). "Homes & real estate: For house hunters, old and new homes each have their advantages". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved June 18, 2022. transplants [to Pittsburgh] to the area might be pleasantly surprised by a few aspects of Pittsburgh housing stock. No, we're not talking about the Pittsburgh toilet, the ubiquitous basement fixture that harkens back to the heyday of the steel mills and coal mines. Not usually a big selling point, it nevertheless provides a good starting point for a basement powder room.
  3. ^ Billingsly, Sarah (September 24, 2003). "Eclectic Pittsburgh Architecture reflects Industrial Influence". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. EG-6. Retrieved November 28, 2012.
  4. ^ "'You Wanted To Know': Pittsburgh Potty Origins". pittsburgh.cbslocal.com. KDKA-TV. September 17, 2012. Retrieved June 18, 2022.
  5. ^ Murray, Rheanna (October 26, 2017). "What the heck is a 'Pittsburgh potty' and why is it in the basement?". today.com. Retrieved 15 January 2022.

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