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.
by Don Ward
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 dont
see too many hexagonal buildings, said Greg Sakula of the foundations
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 privys 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 didnt 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 societys 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
Were extremely happy (that the privy was saved),
HLFs 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 foundations 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.