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Old Bathrooms, New Tricks

December 10, 2015

What does one do with an old public bathroom when it’s no longer needed (or collapses during a hurricane)? Turn it into something else, of course!

old public bathroom sign

The Attendant (London)

This underground, Victorian-era bathroom is located in London’s trendy Soho district. Originally constructed around 1890, it was abandoned in the 1960s before being converted into a coffee shop. Now staffers at the BBC’s nearby headquarters can enjoy a latte while plopped on a stool in front of a porcelain urinal that’s over 100 years old. Many of the original features, among them a hand dryer and century-old floor tiles, have been completely restored while the owners have also added photos of celebrity visitors. Oh, and in case you were wondering, it does have a bathroom for customers. Ironically, it’s an old office used by attendants who kept the place clean back when the rest of the building was a bathroom.

Burgermeister (Berlin)

“Burgemeister” may mean “mayor” in German but in Berlin it also means “a great place to get a cheeseburger and a side of fries.” This small burger stand is currently housed in an old public bathroom under a rail line in East Berlin. During the summer months, the line of customers waiting to place orders often stretches dozens of yards. The proprietors also have a thing for ‘90s era American hip-hop and love to blast it out of the shop’s stereo speakers. Burgermeister also stays open until the wee hours of the morning, which makes it a popular destination for Berlin’s clubgoers, rockers, off-duty bartenders, and other creatures of the night.

The Witch Castle (Portland, Oregon)

The creepy rumors surrounding this mysterious, moss-covered stone building in Portland’s Forest Park are too numerous to mention here. A popular legend favored by local teenagers is that it’s routinely used for animal sacrifices by witches. Others claim it’s haunted. However, “The Witch Castle,” is actually a former public restroom. It was heavily damaged during the Columbus Day Storm, a hurricane that roared through the city in 1962. The bathroom was never repaired and it’s often used as a rest area for the park’s joggers and hikers. Nevertheless, the rumors continue, which is one reason why writer and Decemberists’ frontman Colin Meloy decided to feature the former potty in Wildwood Imperium, the third entry in his acclaimed fantasy book series.

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