The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum: A Place of Madness and Destruction
Sun, April 18, 2021

The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum: A Place of Madness and Destruction


Commissioned in the early 1850s, the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane – which would later be known as the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum – was intended to be one of the first hopeful developments in centuries for mental patients. People refer to it as the brainchild of Thomas Story Kirkbride, a doctor and crusader for the mentally ill. He was known as the founder of the American Psychiatric Association.


Photo Credit: Flickr


Kirkbride established the asylum for one primary reason: to disabuse people of their misconceptions about mental illness – that it is an irreversible condition that should be treated in darkness with force and physical restraint. Kirkbride was the one who suggested that asylums must be built with plenty of windows, long halls with 12-foot ceilings, and ventilation that allowed for cross breezes because he believed in the importance of light and fresh air. 


Photo Credit: All That's Interesting


Aside from that, he also believed that mental patients should be allowed to roam as much as possible and find stimulation for their minds. In this way, they would behave better because they are given more control over their own lives. Since the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum opened its doors in 1863, it housed 250 patients. All of them were given a room each. The asylum has a working farm, gas well, waterworks, and cemetery.

Photo Credit: Walter Arnold Photography


All That’s Interesting, a site for curious people who want to know more about what they saw on the news or read in history books, reported that the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum’s facilities were overrun in 1881, housing 500 more patients. By 1938, patients were crammed together and started to suffer from malnutrition. At its peak in the 1950s, the hospital was holding 2,600 patients.

Aside from that, patients were sleeping on the floor, clear windows were covered with grime, and the wallpaper was peeling from decay. In 1994, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum closed its doors forever.




Katherine Cellona

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