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Preserving the history of privies

Twelve privies remain at the preserve, while the other 5 sit on the West side of the Huntington County Historical Museum, facing Pizza Junction. Photo by Grace Green
Twelve privies remain at the preserve, while the other 5 sit on the West side of the Huntington County Historical Museum, facing Pizza Junction.
Photo by Grace Green

“Once you have two of anything, you have a collection,” said world-famous outhouse collector Hy Goldenberg in a 1996 interview with Farm Show.

Goldenberg accidentally became a collector of outhouses in 1960 when he purchased one for the men working on his house in an isolated forest area in Huntington County.

The man sent to acquire the “worst looking privy” for him came back with two, explaining that he thought Goldenberg might change his mind when he saw the one he requested. From then on, Goldenberg continued to accumulate outhouses of all shapes and sizes, many of which can be seen today at the Tel-Hy Nature Preserve in Huntington.

On average, Goldenberg paid between $2 and $3 for each latrine, with the exception of one that boasts a copper weathervane on top. Goldenberg won that prized outhouse with a bid of $17, according to Phyllis Thomas, author of “Indiana Off the Beaten Path: A Guide to Unique Places.”

The collection includes privies of the common square design, a unique octagonal-concrete outhouse and even a three-seater with a child’s seat in the middle.

Huntington County Historical Museum Director Teresa Daniels said that Goldenberg’s original outhouses were purchased from residents of Monument City, which is now at the bottom of the Salamonie Reservoir.

In Hebrew, “Tel” means “high,” and “Hy” means “life.” Tel-Hy lives up to its name, boasting lofty views of the Wabash River and life around it.

In 1994, Goldenberg and his wife Lorry donated their 40-acre outhouse and nature oasis to ACRES Land Trust.

Genevieve Alexander, Huntington University student and wife of David Alexander, Ph.D, recently spent a Saturday afternoon hiking and photographing the trail with friends.

“It was great to go check them out and explore the area as it juts up against the river. It’s a pretty nature preserve and maybe someone [Goldenberg] thought that the outhouses brought it character,” said Alexander.

The preserve is also home to a bald eagle who can be seen in or near his nest in a tree down by the riverbank.

When Goldenberg passed away in 2000, his widow donated part of his collection of 17 outhouses to the Huntington County Historical Society. Twelve privies remain at the preserve, while the other five sit on the west side of the Huntington County Historical Museum, facing Pizza Junction.

“I enjoyed looking at them because each one is different and has their own story to them,” Daniels said. “My favorite one is the cement one we have out here. It’s actually a two-seater. That particular one was actually used a telegraph office in its past life.”

Tel-Hy Nature Preserve offers a 1.1-mile intermediate hiking trail along the Wabash River, lined with unique outhouses and views of various wildflowers and birds.

“I enjoyed it. It was actually in the fall so the trees were pretty. You know, you go right down by the river. It’s a neat trail,” Daniels said.

Tel-Hy Nature Preserve is located at 1429 N. 300 W, Huntington, IN 46750.

View the full article online at http://www.huntingtonian.com.

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