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Western Lunatic Asylum (Va.)



  • Usage: 1828 - 1894
  • Usage: 1894-c.1970s

Administrative History

Originally called the Western State Lunatic Asylum, the Western Lunatic Asylum was a hospital for the mentally ill in Staunton, Virginia, opening in 1828. In its early years, the institution was a resort-style asylum, directed under Dr. Francis T. Stribling. Dr. Stribling promoted a clean, healthy, and kind atmosphere that would aid in the healing process of his patients. While Dr. Stribling was the director of the hospital, patients were well cared for and treated with respect.

This model of care vanished in the 1900s, replaced by the overcrowding and the warehousing of patients. Techniques such as physical restraints and straitjackets were then used. After the passage of the Eugenical Sterilization Act of 1924 in Virginia, patients at the Western Lunatic Asylum were sterilized (sometimes forcibly) under the authorization of Joseph DeJarnette, a noted eugenicist. He was the director of the hospital from 1905 to 1943, implementing much stricter and harsher practices than his predecessor. Electroshock therapy and lobotomies were also practiced at the institution.

The hospital moved to its present site off of Interstate 81, and the property remained vacated until it was converted in the 1970s into the Staunton Correctional Center, a men's penitentiary. The prison closed in 2003, and the site was then left vacant again for several years. In 2005, the state of Virginia gave the property to the Staunton Industrial Authority, and the facility has now been converted into condominiums called The Villages at Staunton.

Found in 3 Collections and/or Records:

Joseph R. Anderson Letters

Identifier: Ms-2023-037

The Joseph R. Anderson Letters contain correspondence to Dr. Francis T. Stribling, the head of the Western Lunatic Asylum in Staunton, Virginia for bedposts, and James T. Ames Esq., the agent for Ames Manufacturing Company in Chicopee, Massachusetts regarding orders.

Dates: 1860 - 1861

John W. Norwood Letter to Francis T. Stribling

Identifier: Ms-2023-038

The John W. Norwood Letter to Francis Stribling discusses the mental health of Norwood's wife and her paranoia torward the people they enslave.

Dates: 1851

Western Lunatic Asylum [Staunton, Virginia] Collection

Identifier: Ms-2016-021

The Western Lunatic Asylum Collection includes correspondence written to the Western Lunatic Asylum in Staunton, Virginia, dating from 1840 through the late 19th century, as well as annual reports from the 1860s and 1900s.

Dates: 1840 - 1903; Majority of material found within 1840 - 1868