We see a lot of outhouses in our travels—and even use them occasionally when we’re desperate. We’ve seen two-hole outhouses in living history museums (the family that poops together….?) But never before had we seen a two-story outhouse like the one in the central Illinois town of Gays.
The two-story privy stands proudly in its own small park in the tiny town of 240 people. Signs in the town direct tourists to it. And they come. Like us. I mean, who could pass up a chance to see a roadside attraction as silly as an outhouse?
When I saw the outhouse, my first thought was … if the waste goes right down into a hole in the ground … and one opening is directly above the other … oh, that poor person using the lower-level compartment.
The two-story outhouse background
Samuel Gammill built the structure in 1872. A short ramp connected it to his general store that had attached apartments. The two-story outhouse allowed residents of both floors to use the potty without having to go up and down the stairs.
So, what about that person using the lower-level potty? Well, Mr. Gammill had that all figured out. The seats are on opposite sides of the structure. A false wall ensures the person seated below doesn’t see or feel anything falling from above. Hopefully, the wall kept the smell at bay, too.
What happened to the store and apartments?
The store and apartments were torn down in 1984, as they had deteriorated. But the town saved the unusual two-story outhouse. Today it’s on display at the Gene Goodwin Park. The park was named after the president of the Gays village board who was instrumental in promoting the outhouse as a roadside attraction.
Ready to go?
Gene Goodwin Park is located at 1022 Front Street in Gays, Illinois. The outhouse is locked shut, so you can’t go inside, but it’s a great photo op.
If you’re ready for a quick meal during your visit, we recommend the iconic original Burger King, in nearby Mattoon.
Learn about more things to do in the area.
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