WESTON, W.Va. — More than 200,000 visitors from all 50 states and nine countries have visited the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum since it opened in March 2008 as a tourist attraction.
The former Weston State Hospital is a National Historic Landmark located on a Civil War trail in downtown Weston.
Lewis County Commission President Agnes Queen believes the facility’s success has a tremendous impact on local tourism.
“We see quite a bit of traffic in the county from people who are visiting there, and it fills up the area hotels, depending on what is going on,” Queen said. “I think it’s a niche market that not a lot of people in the area are involved in. I think that’s why it is so successful. They do a significant amount of marketing through the convention and visitors bureaus.”
Construction began in 1858 on the nine buildings, as well as barns and farmhouses, on the expansive site. Work was interrupted by the Civil War, and the asylum eventually opened in 1864, housing mentally ill patients until 1994.
This year marks 150 years since the first patient arrived at the facility and 20 years since the last patient left, said Bethany Cutright, office manager.
The asylum offers tours focusing on the hospital’s history; agriculture, because of the large farm where patients raised livestock, vegetables and fruit; architecture, which highlights the history of the building; and the paranormal.
Each tour features access to the Patient Art Gallery and the Museum, which is multiple rooms covering the century and a half of treatments and care of mental patients there.
“Because TALA has so many different types of tours, we get a variety of groups visiting,” Cutright said. “We have welcomed people of all ages and interests. In one day, we may have a family of four who is interested in learning more about the state hospital system that their great-aunt was in, then a couple from out of state following the Civil War Trail, and maybe a group of college kids seeking the thrills of a paranormal tour. It is not one niche market we appeal to. That is part of what makes coming to work every day exciting.”
To continue to grow the appeal to an even wider audience, asylum now combines theater with the experience…