Skip to content
Shower head

America did not have elaborate indoor plumbing systems in most homes until after the mid-19th century. The adaption of indoor plumbing came after cities developed efficient water and sewage systems. Today, almost every home in America has indoor plumbing. But this was not always the case as the indoor water supply was a reserve for kings and queens, and the wealthy in the society.

The Flushing Toilet

King Minos of Crete owned the first flushing toilet. The flushing water closet had a wooden seat. At the time, Crete had an elaborate water supply system. That was more than 2,800 years ago. The idea to create a flushing water closet came back again in 1594. Sir John Harrington created a flushing water closet for his godmother, Queen Elizabeth I.

He installed it in the Richmond Palace and then created another unit in his home for his family use. The queen never used the closet because she feared the sounds it would make. Sir Harrington was also ridiculed for the toilet and he never built another set.

Two hundred years passed before someone else looked at the idea of making the toilet come true. People would use the thicket while the more civilized and well-off used a chamber pot. In the early 1800s, people had outhouses with holes. The challenge was in creating a sanitation area in the house without the mess and the odor that comes with it.

An architect, Thomas Jefferson, designed an indoor privy. He created a system of pulleys that his servants would use to pull away from the chamber pots. The system had a wooden seat with a pot at the top. He also designed two outhouses in different residences. However, the New York City Central Park designers said the system was unhealthy and ugly.

The Case of Tremont Hotel

In 1826, Isaiah Rogers, an architect, designed the indoor plumbing system for his hotel, The Tremont Hotel in Boston. The indoor plumbing made Tremont Hotel among the best in the U.S.

The hotel had eight closets on its ground floor. Its bathrooms, which were in the basement, received cold water from the same source that supplied the laundry and the kitchen. It also had tin or copper bathtubs with a gas furnace attached to one side for warming the water. The system was not efficient as the water had to circulate the tub until the water warmed.

The bathhouses were common in the Northeast even before 1800. However, it was much later that hotels and city dwellings had bathtubs. To create bathtubs, there needed to be a water supply and waste system.

In the Tremont hotel, water came from a metal storage tank sitting on the roof. The hotel used a steam pump to pump water to the roof tank. They then had a carriage that removed the sewage from the home.

After five years, Rogers wanted to improve his work at the Tremont Hotel, but this time in a different hotel. He designed the Astor House, which rose six stories and had 17 rooms with water closets. These closets could serve up to 300 guests. The Astor House and the Tremont became the first hotels to offer water closets, which were considered modern features.

The Statler Hotel in Buffalo was in competition with these two hotels. They offered a room with a bath, which became a sensation.

The Indoor Bathroom

Bathing was not always easy as it is today. Most people before the 1800s thought that bathing was not only a health hazard but also an arduous task. There were no elaborate systems to heat water and so many people would only bath for specific occasions or from health advice.

To bathe, people had to fill and empty the bathtub using a hand pump. However, in 1845, the development of sanitary sewers made it possible for people to create indoor bathrooms. However, there was still the challenge of bad plumbing and the smell from open sewers. In the early 1900, there was a venting problem as no one knew how to size the pipe. This problem was solved later in 1874.

Early Pipes

Although the systems were functional in hotels and homes of the well-to-do, the pipes were not effective. Because the iron and lead pipes were not invented yet, they used wooden pipes. They would bore holes in wood, preferably elm and hemlock trees.

The wooden pipes gave the water a wooden taste. It would also be infested with insects, and they would break often, especially when used underground.

In 1804, cast iron pipes started growing in popularity. Philadelphia was the first city to use these pipes. The city was also the first to use extensive waterworks as it relied on the supply from the Schuykill River.

Chicago followed in the steps of Philadelphia when they created an extensive sewerage system. The Chicago Waterpower was able to supply water to the entire city through a twin tunnel system. The system extended two miles all the way to Lake Michigan. The city used coal-driven steam engines to draw water from the lake and back to town.

The city of Chicago became the first to have a comprehensive sewer system designed by E.S. Chesbrough in 1885. However, New York is claimed to have provided the model for the sewer system that was used in Chicago.

The quality of the water closets used in the U.S. was inferior to those created in Europe. As such, most of the closets in the U.S. in the early 19th century were imported from Europe. At this time, cast iron pipes were also common, and people used them a lot.

The Need for Sanitation Systems

The modern toilet was invented in 1910. There were other types of water closets before then, but it was this toilet that changed the game forever. This toilet used an elevated water tank and the bowl and lid that we have today. This was the first attempt at creating the modern toilet.

The outbreak of diseases such as cholera and typhoid led to the invention of better sewerage systems to direct wastewater away from the house. With better sewer systems, more homes could have indoor plumbing systems.

The plastic pipes in use today came up in 1966. At that time, there was a shortage of copper. Manufacturers had to adapt, and that is how plastic pipes came to be. By that time, most homes in the U.S. had indoor plumbing installed during construction.

Today, indoor plumbing focuses on efficiency. Engineers follow modern and traditional codes set by governments around the world. Before the modern plumbing systems, the English Public Health Code set in 1848 was the standard guidance for indoor plumbing. Today, plumbers understand all the codes that regulate plumbing in different states. At JW Plumbing, Heating, and Air, we understand these codes, and we will create your system to make it safe and efficient.

The invention of indoor heating systems, better plumbing materials, and sewage treatment plants, has made indoor plumbing a reality.

Call Us Today for your Plumbing Issues!

At JW Plumbing, Heating, and Air, we are experts in the installation, repair, and maintenance of indoor plumbing systems. We also service heating, cooling, and indoor air quality systems in Los Angeles, CA. Call JW Plumbing, Heating, and Air and let us manage your indoor HVAC and plumbing systems.