Weston State Hospital
|Weston State Hospital|
|Construction Began||March 22, 1858|
|Opened||October 22, 1859|
|Current Status||Closed and Preserved|
|Building Style||Kirkbride Plan|
|Architect(s)||Richard Snowden Andrews|
|Architecture Style||Gothic Revival, Tudor Revival|
|Peak Patient Population||2400 est. (2300 in 1961)|
From a 1916 Report by Henry Hurd:
This was West Virginia's first public institution. Its construction was begun by the State of Virginia before the separation of West Virginia from the mother state, the first appropriation having been made by the Legislature of Virginia, March 22, 1858. The institution was opened October 22, 1859, when nine patients were brought from Ohio, where they had been in temporary care awaiting the completion of the hospital. Dr. R. Hills, formerly of the Central Ohio Insane Asylum, was made superintendent and Dr. N. B. Barnes, assistant.
In the first years of its history the institution was encompassed with many difficulties. Not only were there financial troubles, but Confederate soldiers in a raid appropriated the blankets belonging to the patients, and in a second raid a ward was destroyed. The people of Weston very generously came to the rescue and contributed their own blankets to fill the temporary needs, public acknowledgment of which was made by the superintendent in his report. In 1868 the population of the hospital was 40; since that date there has been a continual increase in the number of inmates, and a corresponding increase in the appropriation for running expenses, until at the present time the population of the institution is 1023.
The grounds belonging to the hospital contain about 335 acres, and front about 2000 feet on the West Fork River, opposite the town of Weston, and extend back to the north to a depth sufficient for this acreage. With the exception of the site on which the buildings are located, which extends back from the river about 800 feet, the land is very steep and entirely unsuitable for tillage. A very small portion of it is used for gardening, but in the main it is used for grazing.
There are two producing gas wells upon the property, supplying abundant gas for all the needs of the institution, which were discovered in an effort to secure water by boring deep wells. The water supply is something of a problem with this institution, because the only source of supply is the West Fork River. The recent erection of a very large reservoir upon a high point of the hill in the rear of the building has solved the question of storage. So much filtering is needed, however, that it is difficult to get the water entirely free from sediment. There are some shallow drilled wells upon the premises, which are of considerable value in times of drought.
The general hospital building consists of a central portion—the administration building with wings extending on either side north and south. The corridors connect all the wards with each other and with the central building. The main building, erected of native blue sandstone, is 1290 feet in length and 125 feet deep. The auxiliary buildings are of brick and are located in the rear of the main buildings.
In the rear of the main building are:
1. The Atkinson Building, erected in 1897, three stories in height, containing three wards, all used for male patients.
2. A three-story brick building, containing two wards, one for male colored patients, the other for female colored patients.
3. A laundry building, occupied by the laundry, with a plumbing shop and power plant in the basement.
4. An electric power house, a one-story brick building, containing the electric light machinery, ice plant and three cold storage rooms.
5. A patients' kitchen, 45 by 75 feet, equipped with the necessary outfit for the cooking, which must be done on a large scale for such an institution.
6. A sick patients' kitchen.
7. A bake shop, a one-story brick building, containing oven, dough mixer, engine and other necessary utensils.
8. A store room, a two-story brick building, the lower floor containing the main store room, clothes-cutting room and sewing room; the upper floor is used as an attendants' dining room, with kitchen attached. This building is in bad condition.
9. A morgue; the morgue is a stone building for the reception of the bodies of patients dying in the house.
10. A hose house; a small frame building containing all the hose and fire fighting apparatus.
12. Barn; this is a frame structure; part of it is used for horses and the remainder for cows.
The hospital was authorized by the Virginia General Assembly in the early 1850s as the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. Following consultations with Thomas Story Kirkbride, then-superintendent of the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane, a building in the Kirkbride Plan was designed in the Gothic Revival and Tudor Revival styles by Richard Snowden Andrews (1830-1903), an architect from Baltimore whose other commissions included the Maryland Governor's residence in Annapolis and the south wing of the U.S. Treasury building in Washington. Construction on the site, along the West Fork River opposite downtown Weston, began in late 1858. Work was initially conducted by prison laborers; a local newspaper in November of that year noted "seven convict negroes" as the first arrivals for work on the project. Skilled stonemasons were later brought in from Germany and Ireland.
Construction was interrupted by the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861. Following its secession from the United States, the government of Virginia demanded the return of the hospital's unused construction funds for its defense; before this could occur, the 7th Ohio Volunteer Infantry seized the money from a local bank, delivering it to Wheeling, where it was put toward the establishment of the Reorganized Government of Virginia, which sided with the northern states during the war. The Reorganized Government appropriated money to resume construction in 1862; following the admission of West Virginia as a U.S. state in 1863, the hospital was renamed the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane. The first patients were admitted in October 1864, but construction continued into 1881. The 200-foot (61 m) central clock tower was completed in 1871, and separate rooms for black people were completed in 1873. The hospital was intended to be self-sufficient, and a farm, dairy, waterworks, and cemetery were located on its grounds, which ultimately reached 666 acres (266 ha) in area. A gas well was drilled on the grounds in 1902. Its name was again changed to Weston State Hospital in 1913.
Originally designed to house 250 patients in solitude, the hospital held 717 patients by 1880; 1,661 in 1938; over 1,800 in 1949; and, at its peak, 2,400 in the 1950s in overcrowded conditions. A 1938 report by a survey committee organized by a group of North American medical organizations found that the hospital housed "epileptics, alcoholics, drug addicts and non-educable mental defectives" among its population. A series of reports by The Charleston Gazette in 1949 found poor sanitation and insufficient furniture, lighting, and heating in much of the complex, while one wing, which had been rebuilt using Works Progress Administration funds following a 1935 fire started by a patient, was comparatively luxurious.
By the 1980s, the hospital had a reduced population due to changes in the treatment of mental illness. In 1986, then-Governor Arch Moore announced plans to build a new psychiatric facility elsewhere in the state and convert the Weston hospital to a prison. Ultimately the new facility, the William R. Sharpe Jr. Hospital, was built in Weston and the old Weston State Hospital was simply closed, in May 1994. The building and its grounds have since been mostly vacant, aside from local events such as fairs, church revivals, and tours. In 1999, all four floors of the interior of the building were damaged by several city and county police officers playing paintball, three of whom were dismissed over the incident.
Efforts toward adaptive reuse of the building have included proposals to convert the building into a Civil War Museum and a hotel and golf course complex. A non-profit 501(c)3 organization, the Weston Hospital Revitalization Committee, was formed in 2000 for the purpose of aiding in preservation of the building and finding appropriate tenants. Three small museums devoted to military history, toys, and mental health were opened on the first floor of the building in 2004, but were soon forced to close due to fire code violations.
The hospital was auctioned by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources on August 29, 2007. Joe Jordan, an asbestos demolition contractor from Morgantown, was the high bidder and paid $1.5 million for the 242,000-square-foot (22,500 m2) building. Bidding started at $500,000. Joe Jordan has also begun maintenance projects on the former hospital grounds. In October 2007,a Fall Fest was held at the Weston State Hospital. Guided daytime tours were offered as well as a haunted hospital tour at night, a haunted hayride and a treasure hunt starting on the hospital front porch. Family hayrides, arts and crafts and local music were also offered.
The owners are now offering tours 7-days-a-week, haunted tours on Friday nights, and overnight stays on Saturdays.
Images of Weston State Hospital
Main Image Gallery: Weston State Hospital
- Official Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum Website
- Contemporary photos taken in 2007 & 2008
- Pre-auction photos
- Weston State Hospital @ Wikipedia
- Weston State Hospital @ Kirkbridebuildings.com
- Weston State Hospital @ Forgotten Photography