If you ever needed a reason to plan a road trip to Weston, West Virginia, then I have two for you- the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum & Lambert's Vintage Wines...
I know when most people think "road trip", the small town of Weston, West Virginia probably doesn't even cross their minds. Unless you happen to be into ghost hunting and paranormal activity, you may have never even heard of the infamous now closed mental hospital there. And you may be hard pressed to find the handcrafted wines that the quaint Lambert's Vintage Wines produces at a wine shop or liquor store near you. But scores of weddings, events, and celebrations are booked at that local owned winery tucked away at the end of a gravel road from visitors across the country each year. So much so that Lambert's is already booking weddings and events into 2016!
On a rare all day date with my husband and my sister and her fiance, we decided to head 45 minutes south down I-79 to Weston for the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum's opening day of the year. Ghost hunts and tours are offered all year round per reservation, but the asylum opens to the general public for tours in April of each year. The asylum offers two types of tours to the general public- historic/heritage tours and paranormal tours/ghost hunts. Since this was our first time visiting the asylum and my husband and I happen to be history buffs, we all decided on the 90 minute historic tour. Plus, we wanted to take advantage of the special deal being offered only to West Virginia residents with a photo ID just during the month of April- $10 off the the 4 floor historic tour. ;)
Whether you believe the asylum is frequented by the once tortured souls who lived and died there or not, one thing is for sure- this eerily abandoned mental hospital is a photographer's playground...
Antique sewing machine in one of the restored former asylum doctor's quarters.
Many of the asylum's doctors and their families actually lived inside the main building in the doctors' quarters. This area of the asylum has been restored to reflect what it would have been like to live here during the mental hospital's peak.
The asylum's gymnasium once hosted the city's high school proms and basketball games while it was in operation. The violent women's ward was located just to the right of this room.
And even though we were not on one of the paranormal or ghost hunting tours, sometimes visitors decide to bomb a photo anyways. ;) Do you see our friend in the photo on the right?
Hallway of the violent men's ward
A friend of mine later pointed out a man's face in the window pane of this photo when I had posted it to my Facebook page. It is kind of eerie, but I had not noticed it when I took the photo or when I was making initial edits to my asylum photos.
We seemed to have made another friend in the Civil War era part of the asylum. Our tour guide who happens to have once been a paranormal investigator and my professional photographer friend whom I showed this to later on had a hard time finding a possible explanation for what you see in the photo to the left. These photos were taken within seconds of each other.
The restored geriatric wing of the former state mental hospital
While some areas of the asylum have been restored to their former state, many wings and sections of the hospital have purposely been left in a state of decay, peeling paint, and mold. But even in that which is crumbling and decrepit is beauty of a bygone time. The hospital, which was in operation from 1858 to 1994, covers nearly 27 acres with various buildings across the property including the main building, the tuberculosis building, the medical center, a building that once housed the criminally insane, and it's own farm & greenhouse, and graveyards.
If you decide to visit the asylum before summer, I would suggest dressing warmly. There is no heat in the building. I learned this one myself the hard way.
Whether you consider yourself a history buff, an architecture lover, a ghost hunter, or a little of all three like me, you will find yourself intrigued and in awe of the former state mental hospital in Weston.
After an hour and a half of exploring, photographing, and learning the history of an establishment that was once the very center of Weston's economy, we headed to the nearby Lambert's Vintage Wines to warm up and sip on what the winery had to offer.
After enjoying a tasting of every wine that Lambert's offered, we all decided to share a bottle of their Blackberry Merlot outside by the warmth of the outdoor fireplace.
Lambert's Vintage Wines has been in business in Weston since 1992. The building with it's Gothic style architecture is constructed from hand-cut stones gathered from various parts of West Virginia.
All of the Lambert's wine varieties are made on property from grapes grown on the adjoining vineyard.
From the moment we stepped through the door at Lambert's, we were treated like regulars. There was a comfortable, laid back feeling from the owners and the establishment. I can't wait to visit again in the late spring and summer when it is a tad warmer and everything is green and blooming. :)
Are you ready to plan a road trip to Weston, West Virginia now?
Other places worth noting and visiting-
- C.J. Maggie's is a local owned restaurant located just 15 minutes outside Weston in Buckhannon. This is where we went for lunch before heading to the winery after our asylum tour. Be sure to order one of their wood fired oven pizzas- you will not be disappointed. ;)
- And while in Buckhannon, The Donut Shop is a must stop before heading out of town. Seriously, folks- the best donuts in the area. Hands down. Get a dozen for the road.
If you loved this travel post, you might also like my...