Once you’ve endured almost a hundred miles of endless curves on Interstate 79 on the way up from Charleston, you’ll be looking for a good place to get out of the car for a while. The town of Weston, West Virginia provides a good place to stop. Most of the town is a National Historic District, with dozens of buildings that date back a hundred years or more — including the haunting (and haunted, supposedly) Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. As you explore, you’ll realize that not a lot has changed in those hundred years.
Weston is located north of Interstate 79. Take exit 96 or 99, then follow US 19 or US 119 into town. The famous Lunatic Asylum is located on the north side of the West Fork River. You’ll be able to see it from downtown Weston.
My trip was almost over. I didn’t have anywhere else to go, or anywhere else to be, until I checked into my hotel in Morgantown, and I was in no hurry to get there. So, I took the detour off Interstate 79 into Weston, without even knowing where I was going or what I would find. But, what I discovered was quite a treat. Weston, West Virginia is haunting, and it’s not just because of the mental hospital across the river.
Weston, West Virginia’s historic downtown district is centered around Main Avenue and Second Street. At this intersection, US 19 and 119 intersect. It’s also where you’ll find the Camden Building, now home to United Bank. The Camden building was built around 1897.
Across the street is another significant structure. The Citizens Bank of Weston was constructed in 1930, and is considered to be one of West Virginia’s most significant examples of Art Deco architecture. It was too late in the day to go inside (it is a bank, after all), but from what I’ve read, the interior is quite impressive.
Weston, West Virginia
Weston, West Virginia’s streets were pretty quiet on this Friday evening. Many of these storefronts still have businesses in them, but they aren’t open at 7 o’clock at night.
As I wandered down an alley, I was amazed to find it equipped with a 3-way flashing traffic light. It wasn’t working, but still, I wondered what kind of traffic situation created a necessity for a traffic light in an alley.
About a block away, looking back at the traffic light, you can see that this is not a major thoroughfare.
Second Street dead-ends at a building that appears as if it’s undergoing some restoration. But, my picture was taken about a year after Google’s Street View camera took a similar shot, and it looks the same.
Saint Patrick Catholic Church is nearby. It was built in 1914. Its dual towers looked beautiful against the late-day clouds.
The West Fork River divides downtown Weston, West Virginia from…
… the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. This immense building was built between 1858 and 1881, with the first patients arriving in 1863. When West Virginia separated from Virginia during the Civil War, construction on the asylum became the new state’s first civic project.
The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum had 2,400 residents in the 1950’s. It closed in 1994, and has been vacant since then. Vacant, except for the ghosts, of course. The asylum offers paranormal tours, as well as historic tours, throughout most of the year.
I spent about as much time as I could in Weston. But, the sky was getting dark, and I still had another 60 miles to drive to Morgantown. So, I had to go. The next morning I returned to Pittsburgh and flew home, ending the trip.
Here’s a look at the drive south from the WV/PA state line, passing Weston, and on to US 19.
The Bottom Line
Take the time to detour off Interstate 79 and walk through Weston’s intriguing historic downtown district. And if you can, take a tour of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, it sounds interesting.