The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, constructed between 1858 and 1881, is the largest hand-cut stone masonry building in North America, and is purportedly 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 rambling wings arranged in a staggered formation, assuring that each of the connecting structures received an abundance of therapeutic sunlight and fresh air.
The original hospital, designed to house 250 individuals, was open to patients in 1864 and reached its peak in the 1950s with 2,400 patients in overcrowded and generally poor conditions. Changes in the treatment of mental illness and the physical deterioration of the facility forced its closure in 1994, inflicting a devastating effect on the local economy.
Through the years, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (formerly the Weston State Hospital) has been a social and economic contributor to the local community.
Continuing in that tradition, currently the front lawn is used for many events such as the annual Easter egg hunt, civil war weekend, fall festival and haunted house.
This summer, the Asylum will provide the venue for the Almost Heaven BBQ Bash which is scheduled for June 16 and 17.
In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, the Asylum is launching a yearlong campaign to collect items needed by the Friends Auxiliary of Sharpe Hospital.
Each day, the Asylum is open for tours items will be collected to benefit care packages and programs for the patients of Sharpe Hospital.
Individuals donating one of the specified items will be entered in a drawing for a chance to win one of the monthly prizes.
For additional information, contact the Asylum at 304-269-5070 or visit www.trans