West Virginia Lunatic Asylum Sells for $1.5 Million

A massive Gothic Revival building once christened The Lunatic Asylum West of the Alleghenies was auctioned off for $1.5 million Wednesday.

Joe Jordan, a Morgantown asbestos demolition contractor, bought the imposing Weston State Hospital, one of the world's largest hand-cut sandstone structures and a national historic landmark. The 242,000-square-foot building and its grounds have been largely uninhabited — save for security guards and rats — since 1994.

When asked why he bought it, Jordan said, "Stupidity probably had a lot to do with it."

More than a hundred people gathered to witness the auction on the steps of the Lewis County Courthouse. Bidding started at $500,000.

"I love custom stone buildings. I'm a cut-stone collector and I wanted to build a custom stone house, but never did," Jordan said. He doesn't know if he'll live in the building.

Jordan toured the building during an asbestos inspection, and believes it can be renovated, though "renovation will be a little more than it cost to buy."

For years, the state has been unable to find a suitable, sustainable use for the buildings, which are uniformly decrepit, with peeling paint, collapsing ceilings, broken windows and damp wood. But the main building, its thick stone walls topped by a white clock tower, has potential.

Virginia lawmakers created the hospital in 1858, although the first patients were not admitted until 1864.

The building repeatedly changed hands during the Civil War, and ended up in the hands of West Virginians after it became a separate state. Originally intended for 250 patients, it housed nearly 10 times that many during the 1950s.

Jordan said he intends to make money off of the venture, but he doesn't know how just yet.

"I don't know. I thought I might meet with the city council and the county commission to hear their ideas," he said.