Saved from the wrecking ball

Vevay's historic latrine to be moved
out of way of courthouse expansion

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

VEVAY, Ind. (March 2004) – An historic, six-sided brick privy (c.1864) that sits behind the Switzerland County courthouse in Vevay will soon be moved. County commissioners approved unanimously and signed at their Feb. 17 meeting a contract with Northern Kentucky Home Movers of Walton, Ky., to move the structure from its present location a few yards west, said board president Brian Morton.

Vevay latrine

Photo by Don Ward

Vevay latrine.

Calling it a “landmark latrine,” in its 2004 January-February issue of Indiana Preservationist, Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana defended the structure for its uniqueness. “You don’t see too many hexagonal buildings,” said Greg Sakula of the foundation’s Jeffersonville, Ind., office.
According to Sakula, the six-seat privy was built in a fashion similar to that of a trendy 1850s home style espoused by amateur architect Orson Squire Fowler (1809-1887) of New York. Fowler believed eight-sided homes promoted a healthy lifestyle. Most, like the latrine in Vevay, featured a cupola that provided all the rooms with light and ventilation.
Although less conspicuous, the oddly-shaped privy faced a fate similar to that of the historic roller mill, which was demolished last June to make way for a new county jail. Similarly, plans for an addition to the county courthouse put the privy in jeopardy. “The main reason we needed to move the privy is because the expansion would be within just a few feet of it,” said Morton.
The privy’s future seemed bleak when an initial estimate for moving it proved too costly an option for county officials to consider. “The first estimate was $32,500, which didn’t even include a new foundation for it to sit on,” said Morton.
However, upon hearing of the commissioners dilemma, Martha Bladen of the Switzerland County Historical Society contacted assistant professor Jonathan Spodek of Ball State University for advice. Bladen had met Spodek when students from the university, which offers Master of Science in Historic Preservation degree, had visited the society’s living history museum during a conservation assessment class.
Spodek provided Bladen with a list of companies experienced in moving historical structures. She passed along the list to Morton, who contacted several for estimates. Northern Kentucky Home Movers offered the lowest estimate. The company will move the privy and construct a concrete pad on which it will sit for $13,000, less than half the cost of the original estimate. “I was real tickled,” said Morton. “I was glad that I did enough research to get it that cheap.”
The privy will likely be moved sometime this month to the northwest corner of the courthouse lawn, across from the Baptist church “which will still look appropriate to the site,” said Bladen. It will remain within the wrought-iron fence area, although a part of the fence will be temporarily removed during construction of the courthouse addition. The addition will be two stories tall and will have a full basement. The project, which includes the construction of a new jail on the former roller mill site was nearing the construction bidding stage at the end of February, according to Morton.
After the privy is moved but before construction begins at the courthouse the historical society will conduct on the site of the privy an archeological dig. Switzerland County High School teacher Leon Hostetler, who worked on an archaeological dig involving the summer kitchen and carriage house at Lanier Mansion State Historic Site in Madison, will lead the project.
“We’re extremely happy (that the privy was saved),” said Bladen.
HLF’s Sakula knew of one other outhouse in the state similar to the one in Vevay. It is part of the U.S. Quartermaster Depot in Jeffersonville, he said. The depot was one of three “rescued” historic sites removed this year from the foundations “10 Most Endangered List.” Also saved were Fairmount High School and Drexel Hall in Rensselaer.
A fourth site, the Vevay roller mill, which was demolished last summer, was also removed. Added to the list this year were the Frankfort Roundhouse, the McCulloch-Weatherhogg House in Fort Wayne, a brick-making complex in Medora, and the National Home in Marion.
Appearing on the foundation’s 10 most endangered list “helps attract grants to study a buildings condition or fund rehabilitation, and it also can spark interest from a buyer or real estate developer, donor or elected official,” said HLF president Reid Williamson.

Back to March 2004 Articles.



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