At the dawn of the 20th century, public
restrooms were hard to come by, and Brevard lacked a dedicated public restroom
for women. But the town and surrounding areas were growing, and by 1918 there
was a recognition that a restroom was needed for women to use when visiting and
shopping in town. Keep in mind that back then, the main means of travel for
most people was on horseback or horse-drawn carriages. Journeys were long and
arduous. For women especially, it was quite complicated to heed the call of nature
safely and hygienically. Around that time, a state law was passed that required
the provision of sanitary services, and a Superior Court judge ruled shortly
afterward that it would be fully enforced.

In an article for the Brevard News on
February 15, 1918, Annie Jean Gash, the first president of the Transylvania
Chapter for the United Daughters of the Confederacy (U.D.C.), offered the
U.D.C. library as an ideal location for a new ladies’ restroom. “So it would
seem the time has come to put through the long cherished —longer needed—
project of adding a rest room and lavatory on the court house grounds under the
library roof,” she wrote. It should be noted that back then the U.D.C. library
was located near the gazebo and the building that currently houses the Veterans
History Museum of the Carolinas, on East Main Street, just to the right of the
courthouse.

UDC Library, Brevard, NC

For those who don’t know, the U.D.C. is
an organization of women descended from men who served for the Confederacy
during the Civil War. The Transylvania Chapter of the U.D.C. was chartered on
June 7, 1911, with 25 original members. Its mission was to aid and to honor
Transylvania’s Confederate Veterans. Among other activities, the U.D.C. held
reunions and funeral services, secured and presented Crosses of Honor, granted
scholarships, purchased metal markers for graves, and obtained government
headstones. Beginning in 1912, the local U.D.C. chapter also opened and
operated (on and off) Transylvania’s first library until 1944 when it became a
public library supported by town, county, and state funding.

Based on newspaper articles and the
U.D.C. meeting minutes of the time, it took a great deal of community
networking and fundraising to make the ladies’ restroom a reality. By March 8,
1918, a Rest Room Committee had been organized and was comprised of members
from all parts of the county. Committee members represented Brevard, Penrose,
Little River, Selica, Rosman, Toxaway, Pink Beds, Island Ford, as well as
various civic and religious groups. Mr. E.H. Norwood, a well-known local
architect and concerned citizen, offered to create the plans for the room. The
Transylvania County Commissioners Office committed to installing the necessary
plumbing, as well as to giving $50 annually for the rest room’s maintenance. And
the Town of Brevard agreed to supply the water.

In the span of just over a month, by
April 26, 1918, plans had been prepared “for an addition of three rooms
consisting of Rest Room, Red Cross Kitchenette and Lavatory for the U.D.C.
Library Building on Court House Square.” Prominent men in town promised
financial assistance and local businesses supplied hardware and materials.
Funds were still needed to cover carpentry and painting work, and the Brevard
News informed readers that “money for this work may be left at the Brevard Bank
or with any of the merchants in town, marked, ‘For the County Rest Room’.”

The planned restroom was much more than
just a closet with a toilet. In addition to providing the necessary sanitary
amenities, the room was meant to be a place where women could sit back and
relax for a bit. It is worth noting that our modern definition of “restroom” is
derived from a kind of 
multipurpose lounge area found in early
20th century upscale restaurants, theaters and other entertainment venues.
These places wanted to provide their patrons with a space for relaxation, and
they were usually outfitted with comfortable chairs or sofas, plus the expected
plumbing. Typically, these comfy pieces of furniture would be placed right next
to the toilet and sink. This is why, when proposing a “county rest room”, Annie
Jean Gash asked for “permission to build under the present back porch roof of
the library a rest room, toilet and lavatory.”

Work on the ladies’ restroom began in
early June and was completed by the end of the summer of 1918. The Rest Room
Committee published one final request for money and furnishings. At last,
Transylvania County women, and all other female visitors, would have a place to
rest and relax when visiting the town or when attending to court-related
matters. Also, the new addition would provide Red Cross workers with a small
kitchen area where they could prepare refreshments for their entertainment
events and fundraisers. A longstanding local ambition had finally been
realized.

Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell
Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. This article was written by Anne-Monique Ransdell. For more information,
comments, or suggestions contact NCRoom staff at [email protected]
or 828-884-1820.

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212 S Gaston St, Brevard, NC 28712