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Old 08-21-2012, 08:35 AM
 
20,273 posts, read 28,807,350 times
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And it includes a nice discussion of the Pittsburgh Potty:

The Urbanophile Blog Archive Anorexic Vampires and the Pittsburgh Potty: The Story of Rust Belt Chic by Richey Piiparinen
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Old 08-21-2012, 09:11 AM
 
Location: Currently living in Reddit
5,655 posts, read 5,681,566 times
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Interesting article. I remember the last Pekar appearance on Letterman and wasn't sure at the time if it was an Andy Kaufman-type put-on.

Been here 10 years now and while I certainly haven't developed yinzer characteristics, I'm emotionally attached enough to defend Pittsburgh from all comers. Then again, I felt that way about Boston too when I lived there. Having grown up in SW Connecticut under the constant shadow of NYC, it was tough to find much to attach oneself to. Nice place to live, but kinda vanilla-ish, with not much going for it besides a lot of wealth and really good pizza.

In Pittsburgh, I feel the new creativity we're seeing is for the most part not designed to undermine the authenticity, but to augment it and repurpose it. All the more reason to support the innovators and entrepreneurs over the chains and mass-market "Anywhere USA" developments.

The past decade has been really interesting to watch.
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Old 08-21-2012, 10:14 AM
 
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So, the Pittsburgh toilet. Common wisdom (and the linked article above) says it was an artifact of Pittsburgh's working class: Dad and the boys come home covered in soot and head to the basement to wash up rather than track muck all over Mom's needlepoint antimacassars (or whatever).

Does that mean the presence of Pittsburgh potties is a fairly reliable indication of the social class of the original occupant of the house? Or would an informal survey of a neighborhood's basements give a rough but reliable indication of the social class of the area's original inhabitants? Or to put it another way, in historically managerial-white-collar districts (Squirrel Hill or Point Breeze, say?), does one not find the basement toilet?

Not that I've made a comprehensive survey of my neighbours' basements, but as far as I can tell very few do have the basement toilet, and those generally the smaller, less grand houses; in the era most of the houses were built in my neighbourhood (Regent Square, where the houses typically date from 1900ish or the 1920s), it was known for its large number of Westinghouse white-collar employees. On the other hand, a few but not most of the houses in this district have a servant's staircase leading to the kitchen, or some indication of a live-in servant's attic bedroom, or both. So there's an interesting project: plot basement toilets and servants quarters on the same map, as a rough indication of social class in early 20th c. Pittsburgh. I suppose it would only confirm what we already know, but it might be interesting all the same.
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Old 08-21-2012, 10:20 AM
 
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Both of our houses in Regent Square have had basement toilets. One was a foursquare with custom trim, which could have been at least a lower-level white-collar house, and the second is quite a nice house supposedly built for a bank president, with servants' stairs and servant quarters. The latter's basement toilet does have a stall of sorts, although I don't know if the stall is original, and it still lacks a sink.

So I personally suspect that even if its origins had something to do with steel workers, a basement toilet was ultimately not necessarily limited to such households.
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Old 08-21-2012, 11:01 AM
 
Location: Highland Park
172 posts, read 275,067 times
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In the past decade, I've lived in a Bloomfield rowhouse, a Friendship bungalow, and a Highland Park foursquare. All three houses either had basement toilets or had a spot where a basement toilet had been disconnected and removed. (Whoever did that obviously didn't understand Rust Belt chic!). These houses were built on very different scales for people with very different household incomes. The fact that they all had toilets (at least at one time) suggests to me that the Pittsburgh potty was just standard operating procedure around here: while it may have gotten its start as a toilet for millworkers, it didn't limit itself to that function.
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Old 08-21-2012, 11:05 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
1,519 posts, read 2,295,708 times
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Yeah, I wonder if at least a generation of folks who had grown up in working class households and moved into white collar professions built their homes with basement toilets having been used to growing up in a house with one.
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Old 08-21-2012, 12:43 PM
 
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unrelated... but another story on "Rust Belt Chic":

Pittsburgh fashion designer James Houk makes salvage chic - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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Old 08-21-2012, 12:46 PM
 
Location: Great White North Hills
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Even better than the Pgh Toilet, is the Italian Kitchen in the Basement.
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Old 08-21-2012, 12:51 PM
 
529 posts, read 408,544 times
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"Rust belt chic." So sick of this stupid phrase, even if it does stand for everything contrary to all that R. Florida nonsense.
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Old 08-21-2012, 02:11 PM
 
Location: "Daytonnati"
4,245 posts, read 5,967,117 times
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^
how about "Poor but Sexy"?
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