Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, subsequently the Weston State Hospital, constructed between 1858 and 1881, is the largest hand-cut stone masonry building in North America, and is supposedly the second largest in the world, next to the Kremlin. It was designed by the renowned architect Richard Andrews following the Kirkbride plan, which called for long wings arranged in a staggered formation, making sure that each of the long hallways got an abundance of sunlight and fresh air. The original hospital, designed to house 250 people, was open to patients in 1864 and reached its peak in the 1950’s with 2,400 patients in overcrowded and generally poor conditions. Trans-Allegheny Asylum found itself to be the home for the West Virginia Lobotomy Project in the early 1950s. This was an effort by the state of West Virginia and Walter Freeman to use lobotomy to reduce the number of patients in asylums because there was severe overcrowding. By the 1980s, the hospital had a reduced population due to changes in the treatment of mental illness. Those patients who could not be controlled were often locked in cages. In February 1986, the governor 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 Trans-Allegheny Asylum was closed in May 1994. The building and its grounds have since been mostly vacant, aside from local events. In 1999, all four floors of the interior of the building were damaged by several city and county police officers playing paintball, three of which were dismissed over the incident. In 2007, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was opened as a tourist attraction offering historical tours and ghost hunts.

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