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Outhouse Tour Back in Guilford

By Jack Kramer

Publication: Shore Publishing

Published August 20. 2014 4:00AM
Photo courtesy of Mary Ellen Flock
Outhouse at the Thomas Griswold House.
Outhouse Tour Back in Guilford

Tired of all the fairs, crafts shows, and usual summertime events that are popular in Guilford? Then you might be a prime candidate to check out the Guilford Keeping Society's self-guided "Privies to Porta-Potties: An Outhouse Tour" on Saturday, Aug. 23.

"It was so well received when it was offered years ago, we decided it was time to revisit the facilities," said Fran Swietlicki, the event organizer.

The tour runs from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. starting at the Keeping Society's Thomas Griswold House Museum, 171 Boston Street.

Guilford's vast array of 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century architectural styles all shared one common denominator: Regardless of grandeur or location, each dwelling had an unadorned structure called the outhouse or privy as part of the backyard landscape.

Local carpenters built them to be functional, and they varied little in overall design. Often the only noticeable difference was the single, double, or triple occupancy option. Other privy-builders kept the young ones in mind by installing child-sized seats. Visitors can see all these variations on the tour.

Archeologists have long been uncovering noteworthy artifacts lost down privies years ago. However, many of Guilford's preservation-minded homeowners recognize the importance of keeping these rustic landmarks in place for the inherent value of the buildings themselves. Even something as utilitarian and straightforward as an outhouse adds an additional sense of history. Many sturdy examples still remain and can be seen on the tour this year.

The outhouses included are at Guilford's five historic museums: The Thomas Griswold House, The Hyland House, The Henry Whitfield State Museum, Dudley Farm, and The Medad Stone Tavern. Also, several private homes will welcome visitors to their back gardens.

Swietlicki said, "Some of these remain in original condition while others have been re-purposed as potting sheds."

Finally, special tour features will include a commercial restroom with a contemporary design twist, a unique outdoor art installation, and two recently constructed modern bathrooms at the tavern.

This off-beat tour is a light-hearted way to promote the Keeping Society's commitment to preserve and share the history and heritage of Guilford. The proceeds from the "Privies to Porta-Potties: An Outhouse Tour" will also help with ongoing efforts to maintain the exterior of the Medad Stone Tavern built in 1803.

The cost is $10 for adults and free for children younger than age 16. Tickets are available in advance of the Aug. 23 tour as well as the day of the event. Tickets can be purchased at the Guilford Food Center, Medad Stone Tavern, and the Thomas Griswold House.

For further information, visit www.guilfordkeepingsociety.com or call 203-453-3176.

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