Staunton VA Western State Hospital

by Kelleyann
(Staunton VA)

Main building

Main building

Main building
graves
cell
inside the cell

I've been on the grounds several times and taken many pictures, though I haven't gone through them enough to really tell if anything is there. Western State Hospital, opened by Joseph Dejarnette, began operations in 1828. Dejarnette firmly believed in eugenics, later adopted by the Nazis. Dejarnette was director of the hospital from 1905 to 1943.

When the Eugenical Sterilization Act was passed in 1924 in Virginia, patients were forcibly sterilized at Western State until the law authorizing the practice was repealed in the 1970s. Ankle and wrist restraints, physical coercion, straitjackets, electroshock therapy and lobotomies were practiced at the facility and I'd say a good percentage of the graves are filled with those people who underwent those procedures.
The massive grave site itself is a site to behold, hundreds of unmarked graves and few marked ones make up a large part of the property. I have ventured all the way through the site and have photographed hundreds of graves.
After it the sanitarium was moved, the original facility was then converted to the Staunton Correctional Center, a medium-security men's penitentiary. The prison was closed in 2003, and the site is currently being renovated and turned into condominiums. There is a chapel, and a mega awesome spiral staircase. If it's not haunted, at the very least it's an incredible place to explore.

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Sep 03, 2017
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Update Summer 2016 NEW
by: Anonymous

Was just inside around late summer of 2016. Place is boarded up and has a fairly well line of sight from the road so we had to approach at night. We approached from the front side of the building and picked a first floor window that offered the most cover from the street, I got to work unscrewing the board on the window enough to get through. It took me around 35 minutes just to get enough of the screws out to pull the board back enough to get in. Myself and my girlfriend entered through one of the windows which turned out to be an admin room or storage area. I would not like to say the exact window as the board may still be open and I wouldn't like to see anyone draw attention to it and have it discovered, or themselves caught. In the room we entered there were many old desks and vintage appliances stored there. Upon opening the drawers from some of the desks I found patient clothing and food receipts from a local business and a laundry in Staunton, all dated from 1951 to 52! I took them and have them currently as I thought it would be a shame if they were lost or destroyed, I collected a good many other misc. papers and files as well, which I currently have. We explored most all areas of the facility except for the basement which I still very much regret. The place seems to still be in relatively decent shape save for some very dilapidated areas of hallway toward the middle where I believe the two buildings must connect. I have footage of the entire excursion. Overall it was a very interesting trip which I would like to make again soon. Just thought I would share in case anyone was interested, I will not list my name but if anyone has any questions I will check the comments from time to time.

Dec 03, 2015
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helpful NEW
by: Anonymous

If anyone is looking to see the site, simply look for the Staunton Sheetz location. There is only one location in Staunton at this time and it can not only be seen from there but also is on property that buts up against it.

Mar 13, 2015
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oops NEW
by: Anonymous

Previous comment was meant for DeJarnette's
Got my pages mixed up :(

Mar 13, 2015
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Update NEW
by: Anonymous

I feel like doing an update. I went up there recently to see how things were holding up, since it has been a while because I've moved. I recently met someone who explored the place some years ago (before it was boarded up) and found blueprints for plans they had for the building. He did keep them and I got to check them out which was fascinating. I have been obsessed with this building and learning it's history since I was about 11 years old, that's not saying much seeing as I am only 20 now, but it makes me happy to see the comments on here expressing interest in the place.

Nov 17, 2014
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As of 2 years ago... NEW
by: Anonymous

As of 2 years ago, there were still original buildings. Anyone been there more recently? There were plans to convert them for other uses (apartments or business?), but only some of that happened. So, you had some updated buildings right next to some very run-down ones. Kinda creepy.

Nov 16, 2014
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Buildings NEW
by: Carrie

Are any of the original buildings still standing?

Oct 25, 2014
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clear up NEW
by: Kelleyann

hi. It's been a while since I wrote this. Since then I have confirmed that there are two separate sites. The one I explored was the one near the giant watering which is being comverted into condos. This one is off 250, Village Drive, if I'm not mistaken. The other site, a children's institution, is located past the Walmart, near the Frontier Culture Museum. Sorry for any confusion. I lived in Staunton for 4 years while in college, and hadn't explored the area very much at that point.

Oct 25, 2014
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Please check your history NEW
by: Anonymous

Western State Hospital was NOT founded by Joseph DeJarnette! Western State Hospital was in existence long before DeJarnette was ever born. DeJarnette Sanatorium is located just a mile or so from the original Western State Hospital. It was opened as a private facility for those who had the money to pay for treatment. Yes, DeJarnette believed in and practiced eugenics. I have lived in Staunton and Augusta County all my life and have worked at Western State, but at the second incarnation of the facility. It has now closed as well and staff and patients have moved to its third location.

Jul 25, 2014
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Directions NEW
by: Anonymous

Would anyone who has been at the "no trespassing" site give me directions? I would just like a view from a distance as I believe a relative of mine was treated there in the 1960's.

Also, would records of patients be housed for research?

Thank You.

Jun 04, 2014
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Relative of a Patient NEW
by: Jennifer Guthrie

I have spent more than 10 years doing family genealogy and have a relative on my mother's side who was a patient here twice. It took a long time to trace her here and apparently she died the 2nd time she was admitted and is interred in the cemetery, which, as was mentioned, is largely unmarked.

When I went a few years ago, it was already in the process of being transformed into condos (since stalled, I believe)and even though the unrejuvenated (we'll say) buildings and areas were clearly marked, "No Trespassing", I did traipse around and take many pictures and went a few feet into some of the buildings. The cemetery was quite overgrown so I didn't go to far into it, but there is certainly some creep factor to the site as a whole. Maybe it was because I knew I wasn't supposed to be there and it was in the middle of the day, but I felt like I was being watched the whole time.

I went a couple times and took my cousin, who is and RN and happened to move to Staunton from OH before we found out we had ties there (how wild!!!) and she directed me to another old location of this hospital so I am glad someone who "has their facts straight" pointed this out to the know-it-all" nurse who apparently worked there (or at one of its manifestations)and didn't know what SHE was talking about.

When it comes to ghostly matters, there was one instance in which I was taking pictures of a room through a broken window of a door. I was looking at the screen as I did this and the first photo I took I could tell went wonky on me so I assumed I had jerked the camera and deleted the photo. I tried again I believe 2 more times and the photo kept getting this strange weave through it. I was surprised, as I have never had this happen at any cemeteries or anything that I have visited in my research and got a little creeped out by it and excited at the same time. None of the other inside photos came out like that--all normal--but a couple outdoor photos later also got that same strange weave through it. I would like to think I captured something, of course, but who knows. :) It was a great trip.

Oct 13, 2013
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WTF???? NEW
by: Anonymous

Your "facts" are confused. I'm not familiar with all of the details of its history, but when I left my staff RN job there in mid-2002, the hospital housed in 2 or 3 buildings, a combination of the few remaining "chronic-care" (long-term) patients who weren't welcome elsewhere, or declined to leave, and 4 inpatient acute (short-term) care units in a single additional building. Only those few of the many patient-unit buildings remained open, and they were well-kept (albeit old-fashioned) and staffed by modern, trained, licensed, and dedicated ordinary hospital staff. There were no prisons nor prisoners housed there whatsoever, nor an on-site graveyard. They do, however, contribute to research. It seems to be open now; you can Google the home site. There are other, older sites in the VA system you may be thinking of, but you need to get your "facts" straight before you hurt someone.

Mar 28, 2012
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A few mixed up facts...
by: Anonymous

Dejarnette and the buildings that became a penitentiary are two different places. They are both in Staunton, but the one that became a prison, and now condominiums and a hotel are closer to downtown. While Dejarnette is now abandoned and completely closed off.

Feb 10, 2012
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2012 I went there
by: Patty

Hi, I went to this property in Jan 2012 and took hundreds of photos. It is a fascinating place! The staircase is incredible..but beware fellow photographers and curiousity seekers...on my third visit there the police came and gave my husband and I a REALLY hard time, and charged us with tresspassing. We just went to court for it this morning. We were charged $100 fine plus court costs.
To be honest I still think it was well worth it....the place is truly interesting. It has beautiful architecture and Jeffersonian windows.

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