Patricia Temples Photography

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Archive for the tag “historic buildings”

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

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 largest hand-cut stone masonry building in North America.


The second largest hand-cut stone building in the world, next to the Kremlin.

The second floor has been maintained with many of the original furnishings from the late 19th, early 20th century.

Second floor room-3

Hallway on the second floor of the main building.

Second floor room 2

Parlor on the second floor of the main building.

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.

Community Room

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.

Pink meeting room

This is a common area on one of the residential halls. I love the shape of the space, and the light that comes through those windows. In one similar space there was a table with a chess board in the center of the room.

Hallway in blue

A residential hallway, third or fourth floor of the main building.

Bathtub Toilets and sinks

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.

Classroom Hair salon Greene hospital room

Patient rooms were sometimes for single individuals, sometimes for as many as four.

This room had four closets, so it is assumed that four people shared this space.

This room had four closets, so it is assumed that four people shared this space.

Window and Radiator

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.

Lily's Room

A few last images.

Cell in Forensics Bldg

A cell in the Forensics Building which housed the criminally insane. These were areas for solitary confinement.

Paintball door

Looks like they may have played paintball on this door.

Window to the outside

The view to the outside from a hallway.


Lonaconing Silk Mill

I had the great pleasure of going on an adventure in western Maryland last weekend.  I had read about the Lonanconing Silk Mill and I knew it was going to be a photographer’s dream.  A group of photographers, armed with flashlights, multiple lenses and tripods, and dressed in layers of warm clothing, spent six hours there on a day when the outside temperatures were in the 40s.  There is no electricity, and therefore no heat or light other than what comes through the windows of this immense building. The silk mill closed in July 1957, and on that day workers walked out, leaving personal belongings, mill records and all the machinery intact. The Lonaconing Silk Mill (originally called the Klotz Throwing Company) is the last intact silk mill in the United States. The mill was responsible for twisting raw silk into thread, and in its early years it created fine silk thread for wedding gowns.  Two world wars and a depression caused ups and downs in the economy and in the production at the mill, ultimately leading to a change to rayon in the early 40s.  During the depression the mill reorganized as the General Textile Mills Company.

My first impression of the mill was that it must have been a noisy place to work.  It was built in 1907, with additions in 1916 and 1946.  Much of the equipment was belt-driven and there are rows and rows of metal that a genius must have designed.  I have no mind for engineering, so it was unfathomable to me how any of this worked.  It didn’t matter, because the shapes, colors, leading lines and odd pieces of personal property were intriguing.  Another thing I suspect about this mill is that most of the workers were women.  I haven’t read that anywhere, but the personal effects left behind seem to indicate that.  Of course, in those days, the management would have been male, and the maintenance of the  equipment would have been done by men as well.  The third thing that is worth mentioning is that the mill has no signs of mice, bats, or any other kind of animal because there is no food or water source. Windows are broken, perhaps by kids practicing their throwing skills, and paint is chipping off the walls and ceilings.  It is interesting to see how a building ages, what changes and what stays intact.  Take a look at my images to see what you can learn about the Lonaconing Silk Mill.

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