Two-Story Outhouse – Cedar Lake, Michigan - Atlas Obscura

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Two-Story Outhouse

Cedar Lake, Michigan

There are two legends behind the origin of this unusually tall sanitary structure.  


A standalone multi-story outhouse is an odd sight to encounter, and one that raises the question: Why the second floor? Various tales surround the origin of the historic two-story outhouse in Cedar Lake, Michigan. Of them, two different explanations have prevailed.

The first is that this unique outhouse was once connected to a hotel or boarding house. The structure formerly accompanied a dwelling built in 1875, but the building was sadly lost to fire. According to this theory, a footbridge once provided easy access from both floors of the establishment to its multi-level detached restroom. Access to the top level could have been especially advantageous during winters when heavy snow blocked the door to the lower level.

The second story is that the original owner, a man named William Nelson, was looking out for the privacy of his wife and seven daughters. Hoping to keep the women separate from the lumberjacks and other customers frequenting his general store on the first level of their dwelling, he built a two-story outhouse with the top level accessed by a walkway from the second floor of the house. This unique privy had eight separate seats (read: holes), with four on each level.

Whichever story is accurate, the fact remains that this towering toilet is a local icon that draws visitors to Cedar Lake. The two-story outhouse has been restored and reconstructed over the years, and the property has been cleaned up. Situated just north of the Pere Marquette Rail-Trail, this historic building is a convenient and unique attraction for those driving through town on M-46, or those pedaling the nearby cross-state bike trail.

Know Before You Go

The outhouse is located in town on M-575, to the south of the M-46 and just north of the Pere Marquette Rail-Trail.

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