Saturday, January 1, 2011

Western Lunatic Asylum

Opened in 1828, the Western Lunatic Asylum provided cutting-edge treatment for mentally ill patients. One of the earliest “healing” landscapes in the country, the tranquil and pastoral setting was an important part of the therapy. The stately grounds of the 80-acre campus were so picturesque that a wrought-iron fence (extant) was erected, not to keep patients in, but to keep the town’s local picnickers out.

Patients tended the hospital grounds and hundreds of acres of surrounding farmland, growing much of their own food. Architect Thomas Blackburn, who worked under Thomas Jefferson during the construction of the University of Virginia, designed many of the buildings on site in a distinct Jeffersonian style. In 1969, the five surviving antebellum buildings were listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In the early 1970s, the asylum (by then renamed Western State Hospital) relocated, and the campus became home to the Staunton Correctional Center, a medium-security prison. During this time, which lasted until 2003, many of the buildings fell into disrepair. The property sat vacant until recently, when its new owners began restoring the buildings. Now called the "Villages at Staunton," the campus offers a combination of retail establishments, offices and condominium residences.

A condominium interior:

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