Illustration of the mechanics and general measurements to an outhouse.

The cabins of Glen Haven have a unique feature novel to newcomers to the town. Our waste system is not connected to the main sewage network as one might find in a larger town. Within our rural area, the predominant disposal of waste was at one time the outhouse. Outhouses are still quite common within Glen Haven with most cabins still featuring their own privy. Most of these humble, utilitarian latrines are now defunct and out of repair. Some are still in good working order and furnished with the necessary amenities to serve cabin overflow and walkers in need - it’s good to make oneself familiar with these trusty locales and, like a good neighbor, share necessary supplies every now and again!

History of the Outhouse

Outhouses remained in use well into the 20th century. City outhouses were typically multi-doored facilities located in alleys behind apartment buildings. They were far less sanitary due to heavy usage and public health concerns, like groundwater pollution, led to their demise.

Country outhouses are typically located out of sight of the house and away from water sources that could become contaminated. It was a delicate balance between access and smell.

Outhouses are generally constructed of wood and are lightweight enough for relocation as needed, like when the pit becomes full. The buildings are weathertight, well-ventilated, and painted for added durability.

The symbols of a moon and stars cut into the door of an outhouse are suggested to signify the gender allocated - moon for ladies (goddess Luna) and circle or star for men (sun god Apollo). While there is some dispute as to the accuracy of this claim, most will agree that the cutouts provided necessary benefits. The cutouts allow air to circulate. They also allow light in, as well as out - most occupants going in at night carried a lantern. The cutouts let others know that the outhouse was occupied. Additionally, the cutouts made for a nice handle to open the door.

Early users of outhouses kept lime, sawdust, and wood ash on hand to deposit into the pit from time to time to speed the breakdown and prevent insects. For those few living in Glen Haven without indoor plumbing, it is advised to not cover waste with any of these items if you want to have your outhouse pumped, as they will solidify waste. In that case, residents would need to dig a new pit once the current one is filled and relocate the outhouse. The existing (full) pit would need to be covered with concrete.

The Advent of the Septic System

A septic tank is an underground chamber made of concrete, fiberglass, or plastic through which domestic wastewater flows for treatment. Settling and anaerobic processes reduce solids and organics, but the treatment efficiency is only moderate. Septics are a private onsite wastewater treatment system. They can be used in areas that are not connected to a sewer system, such as rural areas like Glen Haven. The treated liquid effluent is commonly disposed of in a septic drain field, which provides the further treatment.

The rate of accumulation of sludge is faster than the rate of decomposition. Therefore, it must be periodically removed, which is commonly done with a vacuum truck, like that of our friends at Johnston Sanitation!

Septic tanks allow for safe disposal of wastewater and are popular in Glen Haven. Septic tanks, as illustrated to the right, are underground watertight containers made of fiberglass, plastic, or concrete. The tank is connected to two pipes. The inlet pipe is connected to the house and allows wastewater to enter the tank. The outlet pipe moves processed wastewater out to be distributed evenly in the soil. Good septic system maintenance is necessary to avoid expensive and damaging blockages.
Owner Evan Welting pictured with company truck and his dog ‘Lenny’.