The outhouses of Queensborough

Mr. Kincaid's outhouse

This old outhouse sits right next door to the Manse, outside the home that once belonged to a kindly bachelor gentleman named Wallace Kincaid who was our neighbour when I was growing up here. I’d have peeked inside and taken a photo of that too to show you, but the snow was too deep to open the door.

I was tickled at all the thoughtful (and in some cases humorous) responses that I received after my post the other night on the mystery of the Manse’s bathroom – the mystery being what that room might have been used for at the time the house was built, in 1888, when doubtless there was no bathroom. Several readers wrote in to recount their memories of life before bathrooms, when an outhouse and a galvanized tub hauled out onto the kitchen floor on bath night served the functions of our fancy present-day bathrooms. (Okay, your fancy present-day bathrooms. Ours at the Manse is, as you saw in my photo on that post, still pretty rudimentary.)

The comments backed up my theory that, in rural areas like Queensborough, many homes did not get indoor bathrooms until well into the middle part of the 20th century. I had formed that theory for two reasons: one, because I remember (very dimly; I was a very small child) the days before my family’s own rural home, up in Haliburton County, got indoor plumbing (when we used, to quote reader Ruthanne, “an outhouse attached to the woodshed”); and two, because I remember several outhouses that were still in use in the early days of my 1960s-’70s Queensborough childhood, after my dad took up ministerial duties at St. Andrew’s United Church.

In fact, one of those outhouses remained in use a long time after that. As I recounted in a post a while back about the remarkable Queensborough artist Goldie “The Quilt Lady” Holmes, Goldie and her husband Art, who lived kitty-corner to the Manse, never did get indoor plumbing, and Goldie (who outlived Art by quite a few years) continued to use her outhouse until her death, in her 90s, a fair jot into the 21st century. Now, you have to admit: that is something!

Art and Goldie's outhouses

The outhouses at the home where Art and Goldie Holmes once lived. I’m not sure why there are two; maybe one was “the old outhouse” and the other “the modern outhouse.”

It seems quite incredible now, in 2014, used as we all are to multiple bathrooms per household, that not all that many years ago people had to trek outdoors and across their yards, even on the coldest day – or, worse, night – of the year to use the facilities. (I imagine they got pretty good at holding off on those physical necessities until morning. And if they couldn’t, I suppose there was always the chamber pot. Yikes!)

I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel quite grateful for indoor plumbing and toilets. (Even if ours at the Manse is more than half a century old, as I reported here – probably the first one ever installed in the house.) I find it rather charming that a couple of Queensborough’s outhouses are still extant, but it’s also a comfort to know that, in all likelihood, no one will ever need to make use of them again.

18 thoughts on “The outhouses of Queensborough

  1. This brings back memories, we had a two seater in New Brunswick when I was growing up LOL oh and the Sears Roebuck Catalog for TP

  2. Your bathroom is the height of luxury compared to the outhouse at the Rapids in Gelert.
    We have added power but no plumbing yet so we still use the outhouse (after first shoveling a path to reach it). The last two weekends we were there the temperatures were -29C and -21C respectively!
    I have new respect for earlier generations.

  3. Hey once again Dr. K. is the font of knowledge. If you can get a copy of The Specialist by Charles (chic) Sale, it is worth a read. I have entertained all over with this long monologue (even in Myrtle Beach. Get yourself a copy. Starts out; I`m a carpenter by trade. Time was I could have built you a house or a barn, a church or a chicken coop but I seen the need for specialization. I studied her, I got her and she`s mine! Gentlemen, you are faced with the champeen privy builder of Hastings County, and so one.

    • How do you know – or find – all these things, gng? Never in my life had I heard of Charles Sale, and yet now that you tell me of it, there it all is in Wikipedia: Charles “Chic” Sale, actor and vaudevillian, most famous for his play and book called The Specialist, about an outhouse builder. Amazing! I shall endeavour to, as you suggest, get my hands on a copy. Thank you, and I hope you are toughing out the latest Eastern Seaboard snowstorm! (With your North of 7 experience, I imagine you’re doing very well.)

  4. And then, of course, there are those of us who have just recently resorted to building new outhouses. No doubt some mis-guided attempt to re-capture the romance of our youth and the charm of our past existence. Yes, I realize that romance, charm and outhouse hardly seem to belong in the same thought sequence, but I must say that the new outhouse at the Ormsby Heritage Church has been very well received by history butts… oops, make that buffs… and the general public alike. With the smell of new lumber still lingering and predominant, and the artisan created stain glass window created to mirror, in miniature, the windows of the church, our latest addition to ‘downtown’ Ormsby has been a big hit. It is of course important to keep it in pristine condition being beside the church, so that ‘cleanliness is indeed next to Godliness”!

    Practically speaking it was built there to make emergency trips down the road to the Catholic outhouse no longer necessary. And then there are the power outages. With no power comes no water pump and no flush toilets beyond that first carefully managed flush. So we had a second outhouse built ‘out back’ of the building behind our store/home, available to us in just such an emergency. That building, now used for storage and the occasional church social, was originally the Ormsby Anglican Church. So we had a slightly different design for its miniature church window created. The Anglicans back then seemed to prefer the triangle topped window rather than the Presbyterian curved arch top.

    So we are set for the occasional emergency or simply a stroll down memory lane. We find it interesting as well that of the 5 century buildings still standing in Ormsby, that 3 of them are churches. And now all 3 have outhouses.

    • Gary, what you and Lillian – and your brother Ernie – have done in Ormsby is absolutely remarkable, and that of course includes the beautiful new outhouse beside the Old Ormsby Church! I shall have to do a post sometime soon on that one and the outhouse recently unveiled at Hazzards Corners Church – another beauty. How cool is it that people are building funky outhouses at heritage buildings – in 2014?

      • The congregation at St. Ola United Church near here just added an outhouse to their property as well. A trend is in the air, no doubt!

      • That sounds like as good a reason as I would ever need to visit St. Ola (for the first time in my life), Gary. Until now, St. Ola has for me only been a sign on Highway 62 and the name of a long-ago-published book of reminiscences of the area by a very elderly gentleman, called The Road to St. Ola. (You’ve probably heard of it.) But now, if there’s a new outhouse to inspect at a church at St. Ola, I think I will have to see it!

  5. St. Ola is the only other ‘urban’ centre in Limerick Township. It has a few more buildings than Ormsby, but no longer any commercial activity. The United Church there is part of the Coe Hill, The Ridge, St. Ola Pastoral Charge so we know that congregation very well, as Lillian and I belong to The Ridge United Church. Their building is the oldest of the three dating back to the 1880s I believe. As with most, it struggles with an aging, dwindling congregation, but it is hanging on. And as you noted, St. Ola has a sign on the highway indicating that it does indeed exist, something that the MTO seems to believe Ormsby is not qualified to also have. We’re working on that!

    • Wow, Gary, that pastoral charge must be one of the “ruralest” in the whole United Church of Canada. Raymond and I drove by The Ridge United Church on our first foray up the Old Hastings Road, and both of us remarked on what a pretty church it was. We will have to check out St. Ola United – and meanwhile, if you need a letter of support for getting Ormsby on an MTO sign, let us know!

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