Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Weston, WV Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum - May 2016

Our very interesting tour of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.

"Formerly known as the Weston State Hospital, this West Virginia facility served as a sanctuary for the mentally ill in the mid-1800’s. The history of the building holds fascinating stories of Civil War raids, a gold robbery, the "curative" effects of architecture, and the efforts of determined individuals to help better the lives of the mentally ill.

The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, constructed between 1858 and 1881, is the largest hand-cut stone masonry building in North America, and is purportedly the second largest in the world, next to the Kremlin. It was designed by the renowned architect Richard Andrews following the Kirkbride plan, which called for long rambling wings arranged in a staggered formation, assuring that each of the connecting structures received an abundance of therapeutic sunlight and fresh air. The original hospital, designed to house 250 souls, was open to patients in 1864 and reached its peak in the 1950's with 2,400 patients in overcrowded and generally poor conditions. Changes in the treatment of mental illness and the physical deterioration of the facility forced its closure in 1994 inflicting a devastating effect on the local economy, from which it has yet to recover."

"Despite being designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1990, the hospital has deteriorated to the point where its very survival is threatened. The entire facility and 300 acres were privately purchased in August of 2007 and renamed Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (TALA) from The Weston State Hospital. With the aid of government grants, private donations, fundraising events, and a team of dedicated local volunteers, we are committed to restoring the TALA to its former grandeur, thus reviving the local economy and preserving an important piece of American history." 

The picture above is not the area most in disrepair. In much of the building the plaster is falling down and there is much damage due to age and neglect. We were only able to tour a part of first floor of the largest building. There are many out buildings and some have been demolished. They are open for walk in tours Tuesday through Sunday. Special tours such as Photographic, Architectural, Civil War and Ghost are on a scheduled basis.

Next:  A trip to Jackson's Mill Farmstead

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