Pittsburgh toilet

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A Pittsburgh toilet.

A Pittsburgh toilet, often called a "Pittsburgh potty", is a common fixture in pre-World War II houses built in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States. 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.


As Pittsburgh was historically an industrial town, toilets such as these were said to be used by steelworkers and miners: grimy from the day's labor, they could use an exterior door to enter the basement directly from outside and use the basement's shower and toilet before heading upstairs.[1][2][3] This usage is largely unverified by historians.[4] The Pittsburgh toilet may have been used to divert sewer backups out of the living space of the house. The toilet in the basement would overflow from the sewer backup because it is the lowest point in the system, and the mess would be relatively easy to clean compared to an upstairs bathroom.[5]


  1. ^ Kirkland, Kevin (May 22, 2004). "Homes & real estate: For house hunters, old and new homes each have their advantages". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved November 28, 2012. 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.
  2. ^ Billingsly, Sarah (September 24, 2003). "Eclectic Pittsburgh Architecture reflects Industrial Influence". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. EG-6. Retrieved November 28, 2012.
  3. ^ "'You Wanted To Know': Pittsburgh Potty Origins". KDKA-TV. September 17, 2012. Retrieved November 28, 2012.
  4. ^ Kovash, Sarah. "Documenting The Pittsburgh Potty: An Architectural Mystery In Our Basements". Retrieved 2017-10-12.
  5. ^ Kovash, Sarah. "Architect Offers Explanation For Pittsburgh's Basement Toilets (And It's Not What You Think)". Retrieved 2017-10-12.

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