The West Virginia. Cyclopedia

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

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Authorized on March 22, 1858, by an act of the Virginia Assembly, construction of the facility was delayed due to the Civil War (1861-1865). The first patients were received at the facility October 22, 1864. Officially opened as the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane, the hospital was later renamed Weston State Hospital.

Weston State Hospital, Circa 1900

Located in present-day Weston, WV, the main building ([http://www.wvamaps.com/maps/index.php?place=Weston%20State%20Hospital%20(historical)&state=WV&lon=-80.4717&lat=39.0383&pop=0&county=Lewis&elev=1030&scale=3

map]), built of manually shaped gray stone, is 1,290 feet in length and encloses nine acres of floor space. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1990, the building is reputed to be the largest hand-cut stone structure in the United States.  The complex was designed by Baltimore architect Richard Snowden Andrews.

Originally, about 335 acres were purchased for the institution's use, but during the early 1900s the State of West Virginia leased an additional 214 acres for use as a truck farm. The larger part of meat and vegetables used at the hospital were raised on an adjacent farm behind the hospital. A gas well and small coal mine were also located on the property. In 1917 there were 1,066 patients in the institution.

Weston State Hospital closed in 1994 and was replaced by a much smaller facility named for State Senator William R. Sharpe, Jr. In 2000, formal efforts were launched to revitalize the historic facility (this link is down as of 03/21/2008).

In 2007, the State of West Virginia sold the facility at auction for $1.5 million to Joe Jordan, an asbestos demolition contractor from Morgantown, WV. Jordan has since publicized plans to revitalize the one-of-a-kind building for several historically appropriate reuses.

Recent Controversy

The use of the name "Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum" excited criticism in West Virginia health care community in March 2008 after its owner, Joe Jordan, announced plans to market the original name. According to an article published by the Associated Press, the name is attracting needed attention to the project, though some state health-care advocates suggest they would rather hide any offensive connotations.

Additional Information

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum: 2008, tours are being offered and the new owners are using the original name of the institution. In March, the new owner announced intentions to host mud-bog races to on the complex's grounds to generate revenue for repairs and asbestos removal. ATV, Motocross, and BMX bicycle races are also being considered. In early March, the TV show 'Ghost Hunters' was reportedly filming an upcoming episode at the former hospital facility. Another news report indicates the filming is taking place during Easter week.

Numerous photos of the old hospital complex can be found at the Preservation Photo Web site.