In 1858, the Commonwealth of Virginia set out to build a “Lunatic Asylum” west of the Allegheny Mountains to house its mentally ill residents and calm political unrest brewing in its western regions. Architect Richard Snowden Andrews designed the facility with collaboration from leading mental health physicians, including Thomas Kirkbride, who believed insanity an illness that could be cured. Construction was interrupted by the Civil War and the the process of creating the State of West Virginia. The first patients were admitted to the “West Virginia Hospital for the Insane” in 1864. The massive Jacobean-style structure is the largest hand-cut stone masonry building in North America. It was built with sandstone from local quarries and of brick made on site. In 1913, the 269-acre facility was renamed “Weston State Hospital.” By the 1950s, its patient population had swelled to more than 2,000 — nearly 10 times the capacity it was designed to treat. Virtually self-sustained, the hospital included an onsite farm and dairy, and vocational programs were accommodated through which patients learned to make clothing and build furniture. The hospital closed in 1994. In 2007, the property was privately purchased and renamed the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum and was opened to the public for tours.
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