X post: tiny bathrooms in 1790s house

palimpsestApril 5, 2009

I posted this in bathrooms, but I thought Old House readers might "get it"--I am not sure what I would do if a were the buyer of a house like this, but to do a 2000s kitchen or bath in this house would be almost impossible:

I walked through a house from the 1790s today. The bathrooms were built adjacent to the chimneys and semi winder staircases in what was probably cabinet space.

They were 4 feet x 5 feet with the sink tucked in a niche.

The "bathtubs" were foot deep shower receptors with a corner seat circa 1963 or so and there was room to stand in front of the toilet and close the door.

It has been on the market quite a while because I think people are afraid of the bathrooms. (And kitchen which still has its third cooking fireplace. The two earlier ones are still in the basement.) Unfortunately, there is no way to do anything else with the bathrooms without destroying historic fabric.

I hope someone who understands this house, and understands that they may be more of a custodian to this house than an outright owner, buys it. If I had $800,000 I would :)

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I "get it". My 1915-ish bathroom ceiling is 6ft tall and the entire room is tiny. Its adjacent to the chimney like you said it would be. It even has a tiny little window! My husband has to hunch over to use this little bathroom. Therefore, he avoids the room...its my little "cave"...a sanctuary where everyone clucks and wonders "how we live with it" and I secretly smile and internally shout "I love this tiny little room!"

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 2:33PM
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there is no way to do anything else with the bathrooms without destroying historic fabric.

Any history you'd be sacrificing would be at least a century later, when those rooms were carved from existing space with a miser's eye. At most an 18th Century North American home would have a "close-stool"--a fancy name for cabinetry enclosing the chamber pot.

I lived for seven years with a tiny bath like that tucked in the corner of a hallway. A neighbour with the same style home gave it up and simply converted one of the bedrooms to a bath.

What if you have an outdoor privy? Do you preserve that too as part of history?

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 4:22PM
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Agreed. My home had an outhouse until probably the 1950s. One of the parlours is now partitioned off into a bedroom and a decent sized bath.

I've lived in homes a heck of a lot older than this one in Europe, and nobody thinks twice about installing a decent bathroom in them, nor any other real necessity.

If I had an older home with an original bathroom, I'd want to preserve it, even if I had to install an additional one in an unused room. But, Your inglenook loo is an addition and not historically correct anyway.

I have a large kitchen hearth, and my kitchen is very rustic in tone, but on one side of it I have a computer station and on the other a built-in oven. Neither commodity I care to live without unless I have to. ;-)

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 5:41PM
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The existing bathrooms are 150 years younger than the house, of course. That said, there are three 3/4 baths (I wouldnt consider those tubs real tubs) that are competely functional,(that could stand to have new finishes) and a pretty kitchen that is completely functional in the existing house. What there *isn't, is a millenium styled master suite or 'pro' kitchen. In 1963, someone figured out how to do it without stepping on the the rest of the house too much. I am not talking about preserving these bathrooms for the bathrooms' sake in any way. I was hoping that someone wouldnt go in and blow out two of the larger intact rooms to put in elaborate large baths and kitchen. I have seen bizarre disruptive renovations too often. If plenty of houses in this state existed thats one thing, but they are few and far between.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 7:43PM
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Yeah, our bathrooms were the back porch originally. At some point maybe in the 30s or 40 they were enclosed to make 2 bathrooms (pretty impressive to have two). Nothing near original to the house, but common in our neighborhood - the bathrooms are all in odd places.

We kept ours as is - fixing, but not expanding, as they're ok, but many of our neighbors have renovated or moved their bathrooms to more suitable locations. Not a big problem. With foresight and care, it's quite possible to maintain the historic fabric of the house while uprgrading a bathroom

That said, the "millenium master suite" or "pro kitchen" would likely be, well, lousy. I don't like them in modern houses anyway, so I wouldn't put one in an historic house. I'm all for upgrading with modern ammenities, but really, is a bathroom the size of a living room *really* necessary?

    Bookmark   April 12, 2009 at 11:12PM
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OK, I get it now. In an 800K house, I would want at least one normal sized bathroom large enough to accommodate a bath tub. I wouldn't mind a tiny additional bath like the one you described tucked away in a convenient place. But, honestly with the set-up there is now......it would be like living in an RV when it came time to clean up. That's why we sacrificed the second parlor in our home and converted the rest of it into a bedroom on the first floor for my mother, who had to move into our home when she became unable to live by herself anymore. This is the only bath in the house, however and I'm sure that by the "millenium master suite" mentality so prevalent today it would be a deal breaker for many people not only NOT to have a bath off our bedroom, but not to even have one on the second floor. It's amazing that we have survived. LOL I'm just thankful I don't have to make a run to the outhouse....because I have lived in homes with no modern facilities in them.

I wonder how many people who have those 'pro' kitchens even cook? Laughing again.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2009 at 12:26AM
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