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Loo and Behold: A First Amendment Toilet!

Lenore Skenazy on

Frederick "Hank" Robar just turned 80, and he's a happy man. The toilet gardens he erected around his hometown of Potsdam were declared protected by the First Amendment this spring.

Robar created his art -- fields of toilets with plastic flowers "growing" out of them -- to express his feelings about the local authorities.

The first seeds of the project were planted in 2004 when the Village of Potsdam refused to grant Robar a zoning change that would have allowed him to sell some property to a buyer to build a Dunkin Donuts.

But then, in 2005, a piece of property three blocks away -- not Robar's -- was sold to a buyer who, by golly, went and built a Dunkin Donuts.

A little time passed, and Robar requested a zoning change for a different lot he owned.

According to a long and well-reported piece by Sidney Schafer at, a board member told Robar they weren't going to change the zoning rules for his second lot, either.


That's when Robar decided to express his feelings about the town's leadership, artistically.

He started to put toilets all over his property and fill them with fake flowers. When he needed more toilets, he went dumpster driving. And when he finished with one garden, he started another. And another. And you get the idea.

These "Porcelain Gardens" did not sit well with the city elders who sued Robar for local code violations in 2008. The case was dismissed when the "Code Enforcement Officer" arrived at court without the documents against him.

In 2010, Robar was issued another code violation, but this one was dismissed, he said, "because the judge was on coke or something. They caught him sniffing it in the bathroom."


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