Recently I had an invitation to accompany a friend to the Trans-Alllegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia. Also known as the Weston State Hospital, it was built between 1858 and 1881 as a refuge for the mentally ill and criminally insane. It was originally constructed to house 250 people, but overcrowding and demand led to the construction of additional buildings. It reached its peak population of 2600 in the 1950s. It closed in 1994 due to changes in the philosophy of how mentally ill people should be treated and because of the physical deterioration of the buildings.
It had to have been a beautiful facility in its heyday. The architecture is exquisite and the woodwork, molding and colors throughout give you a glimpse of a design that was to provide a peaceful and therapeutic environment. Today it is easy to feel sad about how it looks, but if you imagine healing the peeling paint, putting fresh curtains on the windows and furnishings in the spaces, it is possible to visualize a pleasant environment.
Let’s take a photographic journey through TALA.
The second floor has been maintained with many of the original furnishings from the late 19th, early 20th century.
There was a Community Room where church services and dances were held. The Weston community high school also held its prom in this room. There was once crown molding, windows treatments, chandeliers in this space. It’s beautiful even now.
Patient areas in the facility are the ones with the greatest amount of deterioration. Paint is peeling, plaster has fallen, there is rust on metal surfaces. Most of the windows had bars to secure the patients from harm. The hallways and the rooms were painted bright and beautiful colors: blue, green, yellow, pink.
The hospital was a community in itself. Whatever was needed was available on the property. Hair salons, medical care, entertainment, gardens, classrooms for instruction in basics for independent living.
Patient rooms were sometimes for single individuals, sometimes for as many as four.
Staff and others who know this building well say it is haunted. The TV show Ghost Hunters featured this facility in a recent episode. This room is called Lily’s Room. Lily was a child born to patients of the hospital, which happened occasionally. Many of those children were adopted out of TALA, but Lily stayed there at the request of the nurses, who particularly loved this little girl. She died at the age of 10 of an illness. It is believed that her spirit is still in this place, and in this room, so toys are kept there for her. It is probably also part of the Ghost Tour that TALA conducts at night.
A few last images.