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Auroran digs into historic privies

Auroran Mike Renaud will share tales discovery from his years exploring old privvies program Sunday sponsored by AurorHistorical Society.

Auroran Mike Renaud will share the tales of discovery from his years of exploring old privvies at a program Sunday sponsored by the Aurora Historical Society.

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History in outhouses

What: “Privy to the Past – What Aurora’s Abandoned Outhouses Reveal”

When: 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: David L. Pierce Art and History Center, 20 E. Downer Place, Aurora

Admission: $3 for Historical Society members, $5 for non-members; reservations required

Information: 630-906-0650

Updated: March 16, 2013 6:10AM

AURORA — The humble backyard outhouse of yesterday is today a coveted treasure-trove of history, and Auroran Mike Renaud knows that better than anyone.

He should, he’s been digging into outhouse pits since he was 8-years-old, and has the collection of artifacts to prove it.

At 2 p.m. Sunday at the downtown David L. Pierce Art and History Center, Renaud will share his tales of discovery with an illustrated lecture, “Privy to the Past”, for the Aurora Historical Society.

Before 1890, before the development of a sanitary sewer system and indoor plumbing, every home in Aurora needed an outhouse. And before the establishment of municipal garbage pickup, homeowners used their abandoned pits as the place where household trash would go forever.

Renaud searches for these treasures by scanning a landscape for telltale signs of old disturbances that might indicate a pit, and has learned how to approach homeowners to get permission to dig. Renaud has found not just broken chamber pots, kitchen ware and old bottles, but an entire sword, a full set of false teeth, even dozens of tiny ceramic dolls sitting on potties.

He is planning more digs for this summer and is recruiting both interested homeowners of pre-1890 houses and diggers willing to pitch in on the projects.

For information, call the Historical Society at 630-906-0650 or visit

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