1800s house interiors. Where are the bathrooms?


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An 1850s bathroom that has survived more than 150 years in the Dunleith Historical Inn in Natchez, Miss. The bathtub, shower and toilet are all part of the same piece of wooden furniture.

Pipes pumped water from the first-floor laundry to the attic, where the water stayed stored in large cisterns. Opening the faucets or yanking the toilet handle (on left) would allow the water to flow down into the bathroom fixtures. Waste would have been carried out of the pipes into a primitive septic system.

Perhaps the biggest challenge was getting the 400-pound zinc-lined storage cistern for the shower and bathwater out of the attic. Construction crews had to build a special ramp and use a forklift to slide the tank out.
Lavatory Luxury: Images of an 1850s Bathroom




What strikes me is how furniture-like these bathroom fixtures are. They might go unnoticed in old photographs if the viewer isn't sure what to look for.

Also, the correlation of being above laundry areas (and below larger attic spaces) can help with analyzing floor plans.


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Here is how they solved heating for literally the price of piping and valves indefinitely. How did I miss this until now is beyond me (kukdos to UAP for sharing this stuff). The whole video is a smoking gun. Now I need to get my hands on the book.

Maybe it deserves a proper thread on its own. This is not just mind blowing but fascinating as well. Such a genius and "simple" design that is still working to this day. :eek:


Well-known member
Superb stuff. Here's a pdf for those who prefer to read http://www.degreedayswi.com/The_Basics_of_Steam_Heating-_Dan_Holohan.pdf

How stupid am I?
The entire shipyard where I worked in the late seventies to early nineties was heated by a pair of boilers and radiant panels on a giant version of this system. I worked on the system for years and completely forgot about it.


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I lived in NYC at one time in an old apartment building and when the steam came on it heated the apartment too well so we opened the windows and put a tray of water on top of the steam radiator since it really dried out the air. Yes they were even painted silver to reduce their efficiency by 20%!


Active member
Yes or anywhere where there was a fireplace.
My grandparents lived on a small farm in Nebraska in a small community called Preston. When I was 6 my family stayed with them for 3 months while my father was on TDY in the French Morroco for the Air Force. They did not have indoor plumbing or running water. This was about 1954. We hauled water by the buckets full from a neighbors well for drinking water and other water was from an underground cistern pump. We used an outhouse for the potty and they had a wash house where they did laundry with a hand cranked washing machine. We took baths in a galvanized tub in the wash house with water heated by wood. My grandmother cooked on a wood stove. They had chamber pots for night time use for a bathroom. These were carried to the outhouse the next morning and washed out. They didn't get running water into the house until about 1962. They had a garden and raised chickens for their food and rarely went to a grocery store. Grandpa would go buy watermelons for a treat or make homemade ice cream.

I had a great time staying with them. He had fun telling us we could catch a rabbit by salting his tail and we ran around with salt shakers trying to catch these great big jack rabbits they were plentiful on the dirt roads that surrounded his few acres.


I once lived in an apartment building which I now realize is probably a mud flooder. And there was something a little strange about the bathroom setup. I noted it at the time, but this was many years ago, so of course I thought 'how odd' and that was that.

Our bathroom was a fully interior room, having no window to the outside. But it did have a window! It opened onto a shaft about the size of an elevator shaft. The shaft ran the full height of the building and had a similar window to each suite in our wing. Windows had the typical bathroom-style glass for privacy. There was a similar shaft for suites in the opposite wing.

The shaft didn't seem very useful. At the top, a glass roof let a little light in, but not much. By our floor the light was pretty gloomy. It didn't offer much ventilation either. You could slide the window open, but there was no airflow and the shaft was dusty inside.

The pictures below are of a similar building I found on Google Maps. Red arrows indicate the tops of the shafts. I included a picture of the front of the building so you can see the style.

old_apt_roof.jpg old_apt_front.jpg

I can't remember exactly what the walls looked like inside the shaft, but they seemed to be interior walls. Whether the glass roof was original or not, the shaft was not built to be directly exposed to the elements.

Did these shafts once contain an older civilization's mysterious bathroom technology? I have no idea. I do remember the plumbing in that bathroom looked retrofitted, exposed and ugly.

(Also consistent with the mud flooder theme: the fireplace in that suite didn't work. I don't remember it as well as the bathroom. I might be able to find it in an old picture. I recall a vertical metal plate, somewhat ornate, and wondering how it could've contained a wood fire. The fireplace seemed too shallow. Maybe there was space behind the metal plate, but I never messed with it.)
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