Flush with history! Man wants to turn his old outhouse into a museum

Flush with history! Man wants to turn his old outhouse into a museum
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

And you think your backyard stinks.

An urban archeologist has refurbished the 19th-century outhouse that came with his Hoyt Street house, and now he’s hoping to transform the primitive bathroom into a Boerum Hill tourist attraction.

“I’ve been digging up so many, I ought to have my own outhouse,” explained Jack Fortmeyer, 70, who excavates old privies for discarded bottles, ivory-handled toothbrushes and other forgotten relics of city life.

Before the advent of indoor plumbing, of course, outhouses were commonplace. But when the modern age of flush toilets began, the pits were typically filled in with household trash — the objects Fortmeyer now covets.

So Fortmeyer now plans to place a seat inside the 1849 outhouse, install lighting in the 11-foot deep pit, then fill it with all the trinkets he’s unearthed over the years, creating a subterranean window into our collective past.

“It’s just going to be a tourist attraction,” he said. “Maybe I’ll start a trend.”

And there’s also a nod, or a shake, to history. But old habits die hard, so Fortmeyer will ensure that no one uses the outhouse as it was originally intended.

“I know someone will try to use it, because it just seems like the right thing to do,” said Fortmeyer, who quickly added that he’s never relieved himself there.

“In the end, anything is a urinal when you want it to be,” he said.

Photo by Stefano Giovannini