WORTH THE TRIP
When nature calls
Rest a spell in these tricked-out toilets
Somewhere in Kentucky, your throne awaits. Seated across Kentucky’s lavatory landscape is the occasionally historic, sometimes decadent, frequently bizarre, and oftentimes extraordinary—shall we say—necessarium, creating a toilet topography as interesting and peculiar as the state itself.
Going the extra mile in its superlative design are the public restrooms at Circus Square Park in Bowling Green. They are housed in a renovated 1921 Standard Oil gas station.
“As I like to say, the filling station is now an emptying station,” says Marissa Butler of the Bowling Green Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The renovation, completed in mid-2009, was recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the January-February 2010 issue of its Preservation Magazine. The project also won an Ida Lee Willis Memorial Preservation Award from the Kentucky Heritage Council.
Butler says the gas station turned comfort station has become something of a must-see for visitors, particularly history and car buffs.
“It’s not unusual to see car buffs stopping to have their pictures taken in front of it,” she says.
In Cave City, dinosaurs roar through the boys’ and girls’ bathrooms at Dinosaur World: spinosauruses, raptors, and prosauropods. And in the bathroom off the upstairs dining room at Patti’s 1880’s Settlement, a statue named Indian Joe keeps watch over patrons from his perch in a cast-iron claw-foot tub.
“Indian Joe has lived up there for decades,” says Beverly Edwards of the Grand Rivers complex, which encompasses two restaurants, log cabin gift shops, gardens, animal park, miniature golf, and more. “He is quite popular with the guests, and even dons a Santa suit at Christmas.”
At Lynn’s Paradise Café in Louisville, one expects the restrooms would mirror the eccentricities and playfulness of the restaurant with its kick line of legs dancing along the ceiling, ugly lamps, and World of Swirl gift shop—and they do. The newly themed ladies’ loo is “chicks in charge.” For the men, it’s funhouse mirrors.
Country Girl at Heart Farm Bed & Breakfast in Munfordville has resurrected a relic from Kentucky’s frontier days to create a Calgon-take-me-away bathroom with its soaking tub recycled from a horse trough.
“Mixing country humor with ‘an artist’s budget’ theme gave us the idea,” says Marissa Hale of the inn. “It goes great with bubble baths, pensive musings, or just a good ol’ fashioned scrub in the tub.”
Accenting the galvanized steel tub are antique bronze fixtures and stained glass windows salvaged from The Cattleman’s restaurant in New York City. A white pedestal birdbath-design sink and framed button collections add a touch of whimsy.
In Bardstown, standing beyond the kitchen at the gracious Georgian-style Wickland, Home of Three Governors, is—according to its 1972 National Register of Historic Places Inventory nomination form—“the heated outhouse with a chimney and large enough for two small rooms.”
Indeed, those rooms were “his-and-hers” privies, water closets that have recently been modernized and utilize separate entrances at each end of the structure.
“Years ago, it was said that there was a hedge between the two walkways for privacy, so that people would not be seen coming or going,” says Manager Dixie Hibbs.
Although Historic Penn’s Store near Gravel Switch dates back to 1845 or earlier, its privy’s pedigree can be traced back less than 20 years. Penn’s Privy, a one-holer constructed of poplar and topped with a tin roof, was built in 1992 for visitors to this working landmark.
The owners of the store were so enamored of the outhouse that they decided to celebrate the occasion and voila!—the Great Outhouse Blowout festival was born.
“It was the first restroom facilities at America’s oldest country store” in ownership and operation by the same family, says Jeanne Penn Lane, a fifth-generation general manager.
Last year, the privy was knocked off its moorings by the flood but, according to Lane, is back on its foundation and in use. That same flood closed the store, currently undergoing renovation for what Lane hopes will be a summer 2011 re-opening. (Visit www.PennsStore.com or Historic Penn’s Store Facebook page for information about this year’s Great Outhouse Blowout, usually held the first Saturday after Labor Day. This year’s will be on September 10.)
Flooding is an issue faced—frequently—by another outhouse, this one located along the river in northern Kentucky’s Rabbit Hash.
“We finally fixed the problem with a state-of-the-art four-holer,” brags Don Clare, president of the Rabbit Hash Historical Society. “It’s constructed from a salvaged 1840s timber-framed outbuilding and with Port-A-Potty parts inside sitting atop two wooden beam sled runners with an attached trailer hitch.
“The next time it floods, we’ll simply hook it up to the four-wheel drive truck and off we go to drier ground.”
Going the extra flush
The conveniences at the Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea are where cleanliness is next to, well—you know—and thank goodness. Anyone who’s been in a public restroom knows how rare it is to find one that really shines.
So remarkable in their fastidiousness are the facilities at the Center that Canadian author Dave Hunter, publisher of the travel guide Along I-75, rhapsodized about them in print.
“All of the staff here at the Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea takes great pride in our beautifully designed facility, and our visitors always enjoy seeing fresh flowers in our restrooms,” says Gwen Heffner, information specialist at the Center. “The distinction of having been declared the ‘cleanest and best-designed restrooms along the entire I-75 corridor’ reinforces our pride and responsibility to always represent the best of Kentucky to our many visitors.”
All eyes are on you
Set in the heart of Louisville’s downtown Museum Row is the uber-chic 21c Museum Hotel, which extends its contemporary art gallery space right into the public potties. The eyes have it in the ladies’ room with videos displayed (life-size) on small LCD monitors embedded in mirrors and giving the impression of moving eyes.
“The blind eyes of seven individuals from a blind dart-throwing group are captured on individual videos,” Communications Manager Stephanie Greene explains.
And in the men’s? “Waterfall urinals with a one-way mirror,” she says.