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'You Wanted To Know': Pittsburgh Potty Origins

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Yep. It has a name. That toilet your aunt or grandma or maybe even you have in the basement with no walls around it. Just sitting there by itself.

It's a Pittsburgh Potty.

Ray Sager wrote in for Your Pittsburgh's "You Wanted to Know" segment and asked: "I would like to know the history of the Pittsburgh toilet and how it came about."

So we enlisted the help of Michelle Schocker from Prudential Preferred Realty. She took us on a tour of "Pittsburgh Potties" in the basements of homes in Mount Lebanon.

"This is just a basic Pittsburgh Potty that you're going to find probably in 75 percent of the houses in the South Hills," said Schocker, as she showed us a toilet that was tucked under the steps of a home.

She says she's seen a multitude of them in her years as a real estate agent in Pittsburgh, but when people new to the area see one for the first time, she says the reactions can he hilarious.

Schocker remembers one woman who was from out of state: "She died laughing and she said what am I supposed to do with that!"

Some people gussy them up by building stalls. One woman draped fabric overhead in an effort to make it more sophisticated.

As for where they came from, it has to do with our proud steelmaking roots.

When mill workers or coal miners came home from work, many times they went into the basement of the home to clean up before going upstairs. Sometimes there was a even a Pittsburgh Shower, once again with no walls, just a shower head coming down from the ceiling.

Gretchen Laughlin from Sheraden, was tickled when she found one in her new home. She says it made her giggle.

"I'm like,'Look honey, now you can go to the bathroom when I'm in the bathroom taking an hour and half,'" Laughlin said.

The Pittsburgh Toilet even has a listing on Wikipedia.

Schocker says nowadays people sometimes build a bath around the toilet. But she also warns clients, that a listing that reads "partial bath" around these parts could just mean a wall-less toilet.

As for whether one adds value to a home, Schocker says, "I did speak to an appraiser who said he didn't actually put a value on the Pittsburgh Potty, but on the day you need it, it's worth $1,000!"

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