Highlights of Weston West Virginia Tour
This tour of Weston includes several historic buildings and markers and concludes with the famous Weston State Hospital, better known as the Trans-Alleghany Lunatic Asylum.
On the morning of June 30, 1861, federal troops from the Seventh Ohio Infantry entered the town of Weston, Virginia (now West Virginia) and seized the approximately $30,000 in gold held in the town’s branch of the Exchange Bank of Virginia for construction of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. A few years earlier, the Virginia legislature authorized the building of a mental institution in the town and deposited funds in a local bank to pay for its construction. Shortly after the Civil War broke out in the spring of 1861, the Virginia legislature halted construction on the building and demanded that the remaining deposited funds be returned to Richmond to aid in the state’s preparations for war. To prevent the funds from being used in support of the rebellion, Francis H. Pierpont, Governor of the Restored Government of Virginia, the unionist government of Virginia that remained loyal to the United States throughout the Civil War, informed Union General George B. McClellan of the situation. General McClellan then ordered the Seventh Ohio Infantry to march overnight to Weston to secure the funds. After seizing the gold, the federal troops sent it to Wheeling, where it helped fund the loyal government of the state.
Since 2006, this historic building has been home to the Mountaineer Military Museum. The museum offers exhibits drawn from the collection of museum founder Ron McVaney. The museum is supported by the Lewis County Board of Education that offered this space to McVaney for the purpose of maintaining a museum. The building was previously home to Weston Colored School, the first and only public school for African Americans in Weston from 1882 through May 1954. The school included eight grades and taught children ranging in age from six to sixteen. The building includes a marker and information about the school. Growing up in a little coal mining community in Harrison County, WV, three young men received their Draft Notices. Ron McVaney was assigned to Germany…and his two friends were sent to Vietnam. Ron was the ONLY one to come home. Asked to be a pall-bearer at his best friend’s funeral…he made a graveside “PROMISE”: “I won’t let anyone forget you.” It is “THE PROMISE” that is the underlying Theme of The MOUNTAINEER MILITARY MUSEUM! Since that time, Ron began to collect military items from yard sales, flea markets, surplus stores and an occasional Military Collectors Show. “I thought having those things around would help me remember my friend.” The collection grew, and SOON filled every nook and cranny available. Ron retired from his job, and his wife suggested that he “…share the collection with others, and tell the story of his friend…and others like him…who served in Vietnam.” Ron took the bulk of his retirement and rented a building in Buckhannon. The collection opened there in May 2003…but by October, the Museum had to close its doors due to lack of funding and support. By the end of October, the Museum had found a temporary home in one room of The Weston State Hospital. The Museum was well received, and was invited to return the following spring tourist season. During that time, the group of caretakers invited the McVaney’s to relocate the collection to a larger suite in the front of the building. The Museum reopened in May of 2005. But, by October 2006, the “Hospital” was locked down due to fire code violations. The McVaney’s collection had to be packed away. Soon…bins and boxes overtook the McVaney’s home. The search began to find a new site. It was suggested that Ron approach the Lewis County Board of Education, who owns the Historic Weston Colored School. The local Convention and Visitors Bureau was using the building, but was getting ready to vacate to another site. With a scrapbook of pictures in hand, the Board agreed to give the McVaney’s a perpetual lease to the School Building. The McVaney’s moved items to the site in February of 2006…and Ron began building. The School House gave the collection 700 square feet of display space…and it didn’t take long to fill every inch. In May 2006, a ribbon cutting was held with local dignitaries, families of Vietnam Veterans, and several members of the Community. The Mountaineer Military Museum was very well received. “THE PROMISE” had a new home. Soon, word spread, saying: “You should see the Mountaineer Military Museum in OUR TOWN!” Folks came…from all over! With support from the Lewis County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Museum was able to get travel cards sent to Welcoming Centers all over West Virginia, and added to the West Virginia Tourism Travel Guide. The collection continued to grow, as local families began to bring artifacts and remembrances of their Military Heroes to be placed in the Museum. THE HALL OF HEROES was conceived to be a place to bring pictures of your service member to have a permanent place of Honor and Remembrance. Display spaces that were initially used to house items from a particular era, were reconfigured to be windows to honor an Individual. Some very rare and unique items have found their home at the Museum. After a few years, the small 700 square-foot space had served “THE PROMISE” to its capacity. Early 2011, The Lewis County School Board secured funding to begin construction on an addition to the Museum. This addition space utilized the ‘back-yard’ of the Colored School. ANOTHER “Chapter” was beginning. By construction’s end, an additional 2,100 square-feet of space had been added. Ron and a local Vietnam Veteran, Gary Rogers, began building display spaces and dioramas. The addition was build and opened in two stages. The first part opened in 2012, the second in 2014. In the “Joseph Mace Annex”, named for (then) Lewis County Board of Education Superintendent and Vietnam Veteran, the space was used to arrange artifacts by “Eras”: CIVIL WAR, WWI, WW II, KOREA, VIETNAM, IRAQ/WOT. The McVaney’s are often asked, “What is the Admission cost?” Their answer: “THE VETERAN PAID THE PRICE FOR YOU!” The Museum does not charge admission, but operates solely on donations received from visitors, tour groups, and groups and organizations from the area throughout the year. Summer fundraising yard sales and raffles supplement the Museum’s Winter Utilities and Building Maintenance Funds when the Museum closes for the winter months. From December through April, the McVaney’s use that time to redo displays and provide Building maintenance. The Museum’s NUMBER ONE Fundraiser is “THE PROMISE” PATCH. This embroidered patch was conceived as a perpetual fundraiser for the Museum. It works like this: The Patch costs $25.00. With your ownership of “THE PROMISE” PATCH, you are then making YOUR “Promise” to support the Museum with a yearly financial donation! “THE PROMISE” Patch has owners as far away as Hawaii and New Zealand…and everywhere in between. Contact us, if you would like to make YOUR “Promise”. The Museum reopens each Spring on the first Saturday of April. The Museum has several events during the year to raise funds for building maintenance and display upgrades, sponsored by local Veterans, Civic, and Motorcycle Groups.
The Louis County War Memorial and Bennett Public Library is a historic home and library in Weston, West Virginia. The seventeen-room Victorian mansion was built in 1875 by Jonathan M. Bennett, one of the most prominent politicians and businessmen in Lewis County. His son Louis was also a noted civic leader, serving as Speaker of the House of Delegates and unsuccessfully running for Governor in 1908. Louis' son Louis Jr. became famous as West Virginia's only ace pilot in World War I. He flew over twenty missions and made twelve confirmed kills before dying in 1918. His mother, Sallie Maxwell Bennett, decided to honor her husband and son by donating their house to the Lewis County Commission to operate as a war memorial and library in 1922. Today the home continues to house a library while the property includes a war memorial. The house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
West Virginia is well known for its glass manufacturing on a small artisan scale and also a large factory scale. The Museum of American Glass is a non-profit museum that was founded in 1993 with a goal of preserving any component of the glass industry in West Virginia as well as the United States. The Museum of American Glass focuses on the whole history behind glass work in West Virginia and gives insight to the people, factories, and products that made glass such a valuable piece to West Virginia's history. The WVMAG also contains an archive of oral histories from the glass blowers and archives from the American Flint Glass Workers Union, which is one of the oldest unions in the United States. From 1777 until 1795, this site was occupied by a log building used by the Indian Spy Service of the Virginia Melita. Two buildings have succeeded it: The original Bailey House hotel, where the future Stonewall Jackson took the examination for admission to West Point. The building burned in 1877 and was replaced by the current structure build in 1885 by PM Hale and the home of the Lewis County Bank in the first quarter of the 20th century. It is now occupied by the West Virginia Museum of American Glass. The side of the West Virginia Museum of American Glass has a mural which illustrates the community’s rich history in the glass industry. Each piece of glass painted on the side of the building is available to view at the museum. This mural was completed in 2020 by West Virginia artist, Jesse Corlis.
One of the "must see '' buildings in Weston is the second quarters of the Citizens Bank, a world-class example of Art Deco architecture and décor. The construction of this building took place from 1928-30 with additions in 1968 and 1979. "Imposing" and Magnificent" describes the exterior and interior appointments: Indiana limestone, Vermont granite, unique Samuel Wellen wrought iron, Pyrenees marble, French burl walnut, furniture crafted from the world's rarest woods, a huge wall tapestry and on the south wing ceiling, a breathtaking rendition of West Virginia's Great Seal rendered in plaster covered by rare metals. The nationally famous Bailey House hotel occupied this site from 1852 until 1927 when it was closed. This building was constructed when the Great Depression hit and officially opened for business on May 31, 1930. The bank was closed on October 13, 1931 by its board of directors to prevent a run on its cash assets. It was reopened three years later to the day without any of its customers losing any of their savings. In its nearly 200-year history, Weston has been famous for several things: its relationship to Stonewall Jackson and Jackson’s Mill; the gigantic Asylum building; the glassware, oil and gas, lumber and railroad industries; the J. M. Bennett mansion and other imposing Victorian houses; and the Citizens Bank building. However, it is not likely that anything, including the State Hospital, impressed a visitor to the town any more than did the Bailey House, if he or she was ever its guest, even once. For close to three-quarters of a century, the hotel, on the northwest corner of Main Avenue and Second Street, had a national reputation and, possibly, a limited international one — a dream home away from home, something to write home about! It was the ideal country inn, famed for seasoned management and unsurpassed, old-time hospitality, the ambiance gracious, sociable, congenial, comfortable, making it the much-preferred address for the traveler who, after 1896, had the option to stay in newer, more modern hotels like the R. P. Camden across the street. Service to patrons was impeccable, beginning with the moment of their arrival; while hostlers attended to the travelers’ horses and conveyances, if any, other black retainers met the guests at the front door with large whiskbrooms to brush away the journey’s dust. The cleanliness of the lobby, of the public rooms, the halls and bedrooms was fastidious. Starched bed linens were spotless, pillows and mattresses restful. Woolen carpet slippers, boiled in a lye soap solution between uses, were under every bed for guests’ use; boots and shoes placed outside the room door were polished by a bellboy during the night. The food in the dining room, served boardinghouse-style on trestle tables, was memorable; the rye and bourbon poured at the bar were of the best quality and generous in measure. For many Westonians, the Bailey House was the center of community life, a place for dances, parties and holiday revelry, for ladies to have teas and show off their newest hats and other finery created by Weston’s several modistes, and to gossip while they played whist. Weston’s business and professional men looked upon the hotel as a welcoming resort, a treasured place of fellowship, a retreat where one could smoke cigars, drink a little whiskey, and wager a few coins on euchre or poker or pinochle. For intellectuals — there were a few — the game was chess; for the rustics — there were many — checkers. Those sojourners with a taste for politics and debate, and that was most of them, had a name for themselves: the Weston Senate and Every Evening Club. The Senate met nightly, in the roomy lobby in cold weather, within earshot of the barkeep; summer weather took them outside, where they seated themselves under cooling maple shade trees that fronted the chewing tobacco-stained, flagstone sidewalk, the high-back chairs of the “discussers and cussers” leaning against the hotel’s red brick wall. The original genius of the inn’s management was its namesake, “hail fellow, well met”, backslapping, portly Major Minter Bailey, born in Fauquier County, Virginia, in 1799. When he was nine, the Bailey family moved to Broad Run, yet in Harrison County, not to become part of Lewis until 1816. In 1832, newly married. By 1850, the Weston Hotel had become too small to accommodate the growing numbers of patrons. The following year, construction was completed on a new hotel that would be named the Bailey House, a plain Jane, three-story brick, where is now the Citizens Bank. (A spread-winged American eagle of great size, painted high on the south wall and visible at some distance, was the hotel’s only outside identification at that time.) In just a few years, this building could not meet the still greater demand for overnight and longer stays, and, in 1858, a two-story extension was added on the west end. As well as more guest rooms, it included a larger dining room capable of seating forty, and an adjacent, new kitchen. In or around 1900, most likely because the up-to-date-in-every-way Camden Hotel had opened four years earlier
The historical marker here commemorates the role of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in what is now Weston, West Virginia in the American Civil War. In particular, the asylum served as the headquarters of Confederate General William E. Jones while he, his troops, and those of General John D. Imboden occupied Weston from May 3 to May 6, 1863. During their time in Weston, the two generals considered the possibility of attacking Union troops under General Benjamin S. Roberts stationed at Clarksburg before choosing instead to split their forces. After splitting their forces, Jones moved to destroy the oil fields in Burning Springs in what is now Wirt County, West Virginia while Imboden proceeded to Summersville in Nicholas County to secure their avenue of retreat out of the region. The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, where they planned these maneuvers, is open to the public from 12 PM to 6 PM on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday and from 10 AM to 8 PM on Saturdays.
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (TALA), was a psychiatric facility that operated from 1864-1994 and served patients exhibiting atypical behaviors. Over the years, the institution was also known as West Virginia Hospital for the Insane/Weston State Hospital. The main building, which was constructed from 1858-1881, was designed by Richard Andrews and features an eclectic blending of revival styles. The general layout and furnishing of the hospital was guided by Dr. Thomas Kirkbride, who felt mental health patients needed housing that provided therapeutic features such as many windows for sunlight and access to fresh air. Moreover, this hospital was designed to be self-sustained by those working at the asylum and patients alike; working in the garden would be a positive mental and physical stimulator for the patients. Despite the lofty goals of the institution, it was plagued by overcrowding and underfunding. Conditions quickly deteriorated and by the middle of the twentieth century the environment for patients was deplorable. Experimental therapies and brutal medical procedures exacerbated issues. Due to the shift in mental health care from the asylum to more community-based efforts and because of the overall deterioration of the building, the hospital was closed in the 90’s. Today, a new owner has reopened the hospital, advertising a living historical monument where heritage tours and even haunted ghost tours are offered to the public.