The Ghosts of London’s Abandoned Public Toilets

The modern public bathroom was born in London. In the mid-19th century, Victorian London began to install public water closets for the comfort of men (and, eventually, women) about town. For the price of a penny, the public could descend into underground lavatories to do their business. Most of these conveniences closed sometime in the years after World War II, but the facilities still stand.

Photographer Agnese Sanvito examines the quiet beauty of these once-vital, now abandoned Victorian bathrooms in her latest series. The project doesn’t have an official name yet, but Sanvito is partial to the title the blog Spitalfields Life bestowed on it, “Toilets at Dawn.” She captures the above-ground portions of the antique restrooms, where anyone could once pee for just a penny, in the golden hours of the early morning when they're at their most picturesque.

“In 2010 I started noticing the elegant structures of Victorian public toilets across London,” she said in a statement emailed to mental_floss. “These once proud and eccentric symbols of English civilization have since fallen into closure and blended into the background fabric of the city.”

When she first began photographing, the toilets were practically urban ruins. “Often they were full of rubbish or had trees and weeds growing out of them,” she said. “The decorative and elegant designs of the ironwork left forgotten within the grunginess and decay took on a new beauty, which first inspired me to start photographing them.”

While you can’t just stop in for a quick pee anymore, some of the former public potties are still up and running, just in different forms. The one below has been redeveloped into a bar, and is selling for more than $1.4 million (the listing call it “quirky and full of character,” surely a euphemism for antique poop if we’ve ever heard one).

At dawn, the city's quiet, deserted streets add to the slightly eerie, lonely feeling evoked by the vintage toilet cellars. 

This one is now a cafe. The original urinals are still there, but they’ve become seating.

Though London’s once-elegant Victorian toilets have been shuttered, the city's “spend a penny” culture lives on. There are quite a few modern pay toilets elsewhere around town—the train station pay toilets make bank. A free pee, though, can be harder to find.

[h/t Neatorama]

All images by Agnese Sanvito

See What It Was Like to Live in a Secret NYC Library Apartment

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YouTube

Ever wanted to live in a library? For the dozens of custodians who once helped take care of New York Public Library branches, that dream was a reality. Recently, Sarah Laskow of Atlas Obscura stepped into one of these now-vacant apartments in upper Manhattan and explored it in all of its creepy, dilapidated glory (think falling plaster and unsafe floors—there's a reason the space isn't usually open to the public). Since the branches no longer require live-in custodians to shovel the coal that once kept the furnaces humming, the apartments have all been closed down, and are slowly being converted into new public uses. In 2016, one custodian's apartment in Washington Heights was converted into a teen center and programming space. The secret apartment at the Fort Washington library will also eventually be converted—which means that Laskow's trip helped document a space that may soon be only a memory. You can see more inside the space, and learn more about the history of these apartments, in the video below.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Spiral House in Phoenix Hits the Market for $12.9 Million

Frank Lloyd Wright designed nearly 60 houses in his lifetime (and even more if you count the ones that were never built). You’ll find these iconic structures scattered throughout the U.S. Some are private homes in far-flung places, while others have been turned into museums.

One of these structures is the spiral-shaped David and Gladys Wright House in the affluent Arcadia neighborhood of Phoenix, Arizona. And if you have $12,950,000 to spare, it could be yours to keep. As Curbed reports, the home is currently up for sale via Russ Lyon Sotheby's International Realty.

The home’s distinctive shape and spiral walk-up are early examples of Wright’s rounded style, which he honed and mastered while drawing up plans for the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. The museum opened in 1959, just six months after his death.

Of course, even non-architecture aficionados would probably agree that this is a beautiful—and comfortable—home. It boasts three bedrooms, four baths, custom-designed furniture, and a roof deck overlooking Camelback Mountain. The home was constructed for and named after Wright’s son David and daughter-in-law Gladys in 1952. After their deaths, a developer bought the home and made plans to demolish it to make room for new houses in 2012.

However, another buyer—current owner Zach Rawling—stepped in and took it off the developer's hands for $2.3 million, saving it from certain death. Rawling’s plan was to donate it to the School of Architecture at Taliesin in order to preserve it, but that partnership fell through, so it’s back on the market once again.

Frank Lloyd Wright homes can be difficult to sell for a number of reasons. For one, the high asking price for these old-fashioned homes—some of which don’t have air conditioning and other modern comforts—can be hard to justify. But even if you can't cough up several million dollars for the David and Gladys Wright House, you can still scope it out via an online interactive floor plan.

[h/t Curbed]

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