I woke up at 6:00am one Saturday morning this summer. I don’t usually do that but I was about to set on an adventure, one I’ve been looking forward to for a few years now.
For those of you who don’t know, I have an affinity for abandoned buildings, especially those of the medical use. Not many old, historical hospitals, sanatoriums, asylums, or clinics still stand. If they do, they have an aura of death and decay about them. After all, most people go to these types of place when they’re sick, and not everyone comes back out.
Nestled in the heart of West Virginia lies the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, though it wasn’t always called that. Construction began in 1838 on the Weston State Hospital. What you see in the above picture wasn’t there in the beginning of construction, but in the later parts. The left wing was the first to be built. As the Civil War came and heated up, soldiers were housed and the asylum became a temporary military hospital for the wounded. Construction expanded due to the overcrowding problem in the left wing. Thus the rest of the institution was created.
There are other buildings throughout the campus, including a surgical center and mortuary.
The asylum was designed to house about 1-2 patients per room, about 250 patients total throughout the whole building. With the asylum being the only one of its kind in the region, with state-of-the-art treatments, the original 250 person capacity was maxed out to several thousand. The once 1-2 patients per room vision soon became patients sleeping on the floor in the hallway due to lack of space.
The asylum is in an interesting condition. Even though the building received help from historic preservationists, most of the structure has been left untouched, with peeling wallpaper and rusting bathroom sinks. Random stains and marks on the walls and floors remind us of who once walked these halls, and whose hands grazed the door frames and window sills.
I look out the window of the second floor men’s wing. The well-manicured lawn houses the running of feet from a child’s birthday party right on the premises. Why any child would want a party on the grounds of a historic scene for the mentally ill, I’ll never know.
Fun fact time.
The auditorium once hosted a high school prom…yes, a prom. Nothing says lets remember the good times like people from the geriatric wing next door crashing the party. Also, there is a whiteboard on the second floor that still has writing on it from 1993, the year the asylum closed down due to lack of funding. On that board were times for group therapy and which doctor was in that particular day.
Time really did stand still at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. The peeling wallpaper and creaking floors remind us why these places ever existed, and why they all eventually shut down.