VIENNA — The old outhouse behind the Vienna Union Hall has to go — and soon.

The wooden structure near the lot’s back edge has been in place since 1888 and has had a number of re-dos, but the shelf life is running out.

It’s teetering on a small slope, lit only by a line of white holiday mini-lights that are strung from the adjacent union hall. The screening near the top of the wooden walls is deteriorating.

The path to the outhouse — flashlights are supplied on request during the night performances of musical and theatrical events at the hall — is uneven and difficult for anyone requiring handicapped accessibility.

The one-hole outhouse, however, had one thing going for it recently — the absence of any odor, the result of regular cleanings and attention by association member Mark Rains.

A sign inside says “TIN CAN ALLEY,” but the small structure is not without a touch of class provided by a framed photo of “Mona Lisa” with her enigmatic smile. There’s also a large bottle of hand sanitizer.


But the dozen or so nonprofit Vienna Union Hall Association members have decided it’s past time to replace the old outhouse with a new one featuring a specialty composting toilet situated in a new, heated, well-lit and more modern outhouse to which everyone would have easy access. While the toilet would be indoors, the receptacle would be outside, underneath.

Regular fundraisers help support hall necessities of light, heat and insurance; but a special one, on the Indiegogo site “Our Outhouse Gotta Gogo,” has been set up to support the effort.

As of Friday afternoon, contributions toward the $16,300 goal had reached almost $1,200. The campaign is set for the maximum of 60 days.

“If we raise the money, we could do it this fall,” said Marianne Archard, association president. If not, the money would go into a savings account and the association would continue fundraising efforts next year.

There are several categories for donors — Rush Job, Honey Dipper, Privy, Johnny Come Lately, Sweet Smells and Brown Gold — and even some premiums, depending on the level.

The website has a video depicting a fictional scenario in which a woman in a bridal gown rushes to the outhouse and finds it already occupied.


This year, a wedding reception is scheduled to be held at the hall in July. The hall is available when it’s not hosting monthly public performances.

For the past three years, the Monmouth Players have done their “Traveling Shakespeare” play in the fall, and the Vienna Historical Society uses the building for its annual play performances.

The building can be rented out for various functions as long as people are aware of the lack of indoor plumbing. In fact, the hall has no water at all except jugs of water that people tote in for various functions.

For most longtime Vienna residents, that outhouse is a fact of life. Some other buildings in town still have one, including the Town House, which is used as the Vienna Town Office.

“Some of us have done this in our own houses,” said Dodi Thompson, Vienna’s first selectwoman and vice president of the association.

John Archard, the town’s plumbing inspector and husband to Marianne, has drawn up plans for the replacement outhouse; and they, too, are featured on the website.


Marti Gross, association and town treasurer, said the 30-by-40-foot main hall is operated on an annual budget of about $3,000 to $4,000, with some money set aside for annual projects. Last year’s included refurbishing wooden, dowel-back benches and making soft cushions for them. A year earlier, the project was painting and repairing the stage area.

“We use a lot of volunteer labor,” Gross said. Those volunteers are known as “Friends of the Hall” and come largely from among the town’s 573 year-round residents.

This year’s project is a new fire door serving as a handicapped-accessible entrance. A deck will connect that to the new outhouse.

Association member Marianne Archard, leading a tour of the small balcony, said the musicians and others like the venue. “The acoustics in here are really good,” she said. The hall seats about 120.

The hall has two small rooms just off the entrance — one for coats and storage, the other for a makeshift kitchen with a tiny ticket window. And the regulars purchasing refreshments generally go light on the liquids, keeping the outhouse in mind.

For newcomers, a paper plate nailed to the corner of the clapboard-clad hall indicates the location of the necessary.


“The younger people don’t seem to mind,” John Archard said. “It’s more of a problem for the older people and those with handicaps.”

Apparently the outhouse came as a shock to a group from Rhode Island attending a wedding at the hall a number of years ago.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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