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Finding Minnesota: Pottyville: An Ode To The Commode

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(credit: CBS) Mike Binkley
Mike Binkley has been covering Minnesota news for more than 25 year...
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GLENWOOD, Minn. (WCCO) – You can’t fully appreciate the flush of a toilet unless you know what your ancestors dealt with. The outhouse they had was crude and nasty but it served an important purpose.

That’s why Nell Riccatone and Gary Hoover are working to preserve this rather unique symbol of human necessity.

While other preservationists focus on sites where their forefathers lived, grew and achieved, Riccatone and Hoover are saving places where their forefathers relieved themselves.

“They didn’t have indoor plumbing,” Hoover said. “You had to go someplace.”

About five years ago, Riccatone noticed some dilapidated outhouses in farm fields and asked Hoover to bring one home to use as a potting shed.

“It looked so cute and the neighbors really liked it,” she said. “And they said ‘why don’t you get a couple more?'”

They now have 15 outhouses in their yard, in a collection they call Pottyville.

Hoover repairs and restores the buildings; Riccatone uses her garage sale purchases to decorate them with different themes.

“We started with one being summer and then it was just natural to follow fall, winter and spring,” she said.

There are outhouses dedicated to fishing, carnivals, pirates and even road kill.

One of the most popular shacks is dubbed The Throne Room, which lets visitors pose for a picture “on the throne.”

“There’s a lot of humor with Pottyville,” Riccatone said. “You have to have a sense of humor or you wouldn’t find this interesting at all.”

When the structures first went up, not only was plumbing scarce, so was toilet paper.

“You used peach wrappers and whatnot when peaches were in season,” Hoover said.

And if they weren’t?

“You found something else, ok,” Hoover said.

Visitors can let that thought soak in as they admire the buildings scattered around the yard.

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the collection is free for people to look at.

But Riccatone has had people asking for more.

“They said, ‘can we use any of these outhouses? I have to go to the restroom.’ I said, ‘no, no, no, that’s illegal,'” Riccatone said.

They simply want their collection to remind people of what many have already forgotten.

“I just hope that they can see that there is a potential for all old things to be restored or used in some way.”

Pottyville is located at 16208 SW Amelia Drive in Glenwood. For more information, call 320-805-0831.

Send us your Finding Minnesota ideas here.

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