A Photographic Study of All Things West Virginia

His and Hers Privy

Privies are indeed a rare sight in West Virginia these days.  Although this state oftentimes lags behind the rest of the nation in various measures of modernization and sophistication, I think it’s safe to say that the percentage of homes without indoor plumbing is virtually zero.

For the uninitiated, privies, or as West Virginians often called them, outhouses, were outdoor toilets consisting of a small shed-like building which housed a toilet seat mounted over a pit dug into the ground.  The toilet seats themselves generally consisted of a hole cut through boards, and there typically was no heat nor lights.

As these structures were, naturally, quite odoriferous, they were generally situated a moderate distance away from dwellings with due consideration given to the direction of the local prevailing winds.  As such, a potential patron might easily find themselves stumbling through snow or rain for 100 or more feet just for the opportunity to relieve themselves in a dank, dark, cold, smelly shed.  Repeat again as necessary, ad infinitum.

I’ve heard a lot of people pine for a return to the “good old days”, but wistful reminiscences of the privy never seem to be part of that discussion.  Sometimes progress is, well, progress.

The image that follows shows a modern, deluxe version of  a privy including separate His and Hers facilities.  It also has locking doors and, lo and behold, appears to have electricity!  This privy serves an old and very small rural church in Roane County, West Virginia, which presumably does not possess the financial wherewithal to install indoor facilities.



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