Restroom Interior, 1912

Going downstairs from yesterday’s restroom entrance would have taken you to this amazing underground “comfort station.” The women’s room provided an attendant, tile mosaics, steam heating, and marble stall dividers. The restrooms were “restored to original” during the transit mall construction in the 1970s but vandalism forced permanent closure shortly thereafter.

(University of Oregon Libraries)

14 thoughts on “Restroom Interior, 1912

  1. I don’t envy that poor woman’s job. I’d keep a bowl of potpourri simmering away on top of the kerosene “space heater.” My great grandfather had a couple of somewhat similar items. He referred to them as tent heaters. I had one in my teens, but don’t know whatever happened to it.

  2. I stuck my camera lens through a crack in the door of the men’s room and captured this image. The tile is in disrepair but intact. I couldn’t see quite as well into the women’s side but it looked to be in the same condition.

  3. i remember this space… it was lovely, & comforting to go down there on a cold day…

  4. Too bad these could not be opened again but can you imagine the crime and distruction that would go on in those spaces?

  5. Well, I remembered it better than I thought I had. Number of stalls is about right and the fact that it was had marble. I didn’t remember that the wall decor was tile tho’. If they were open now, they would still need attendants, in the form of guards. It is one of the few things that I regret about living in the time I do, that vandalism seems so much more rampant. I don’t know if we just hear more about it or if people simply are not taught and don’t develop on their own, a respect for other people’s property. i have NEVER understood the “fun” in vandalizing something. What sort of sick personality gets enjoyment out of destroying something?

  6. You know, that law I mentioned about skating in public restrooms had to have been written about these places. There weren’t all that many public ones I don’t imagine and I can just picture, in a Wiley E. Coyote sort of way, someone starting down those stairs with skates on and “Yaaaahhaaaaaahoooooo” off uncontrollably on down until you smacked into the wall at the bottom. And then getting back UP those stairs. You would definitely have had to taken your skates off, presuming you had not lost your skate key in the swoop.
    In Europe you tip restroom attendants. I wonder if you did back then, too. I don’t recall but then Grandma was tight with a penny……

  7. Me again. On the subject of fancy bathrooms, you ladies remember the ladies lounges at the big theaters? I was always so impressed. Some of them had attendants, too, and they always had a sort of “fainting room” where there were lots of mirrors for repairing your makeup (which a lady NEVER did in public like now) and usually several comfortable chairs so that you could rest, lounge around, whatever. They always seemed to be furnished in gold plush and gilt and had thick carpets. The restrooms at Vista House don’t have the plush carpet but they ARE marble walled, including the stall sides and doors and are pretty darned roomy. Must have been state of the art fancy in their day.

  8. Pingback: Restroom Interior, 1912 (via Vintage Portland) | Steel Bridge Rag

  9. Has anyone seen the restroom in Bryant Park in NYC? It is possible to have an amazing, clean highly-public restroom again. It just needs full time employees to constantly supervise and clean, and dedicated funds for cleaning and maintenance.

    I get the impression vandalism was much much worse in the 1970s than now. “The restrooms were “restored to original” during the transit mall construction in the 1970s but vandalism forced permanent closure shortly thereafter.” So likely 1980?

    Portland needs to be strict and have zero-tolerance for bad behavior especially downtown where it really is important given the shared public spaces.

    Gotta get a tour of this.

  10. I used this bathroom on my way home from school in the early 1980s (I had to change busses in the transit mall), and there was no attendant then. There was also no bad smell, no dark dankness, no obvious drug-related trash, and nothing particularly yucky except the stairway, which I remember being a little dark. And, naturally, at that late date, there was no attendant, even in the women’s.

    Honestly, just about every time I go past now I think how nice it would be if they would open these bathrooms up again. But I suppose the stairs-only access, safety concerns, and the fear that someone might try to strike terror into the hearts of Americans by bombing the Pioneer Courthouse will keep that from happening.

  11. The restrooms in Bryant Park in NYC are owned by a private company, not the city. The reason why the public spaces are abused is a concept know as ” tragedy of the commons”. Since the space is owned by everyone, it really is owned by no one. People then abuse it. It happens every time. If they were privatized, some one would take ownership of it and it would look like the restrooms in Bryant Park in NYC. I remember going down in there when I was a kid.

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