Paris always had great places to take a leak. New York’s public restrooms at Bryant Park, outside of the New York Public Library, also astonish us (today) that so much effort was made to celebrate the accomplishment of our most basic bodily functions. Providence had at least two elegant comfort stations. One was at Exchange Place (Kennedy Plaza) and became the Plaza Café, run by Pat Cortelessa, longtime opponent of the late Buddy Cianci, mayor for 21 years, then expanded to become an intermodal transit station. The other was opposite the Providence Performing Arts Center on Weybosset Street, which was also expanded to become a police substation and ticket sales kiosk. The design of neither addition attempted to reflect the degree of beauty of the original public pissoirs, but neither did they try to box the originals on the ears, as is more common these days. The facility on Weybosset was recently trimmed back to its original size to serve as a folly in the street’s recent, but only partially satisfactory, renovation.
I was launched on this quest for rare Providence comfort station images by Carroll William (“Bill”) Westfall’s photo, sent to TradArch, of a public toilet in Torun, Poland, which he photographed in 1968. In response, Christopher Liberatos sent in a selection of Parisian toilets, some of which I’ve printed below, concluding with an apparent modernist pissoir attempt.