Where do you want to go, we asked each other. We couldn't decide what in the world to do with our long weekend. We pondered and we talked about options. Undecided, we knew we had to make a decision and we had to make it soon. It wasn't until the simple comment was made, "There is so much I want to see in this world" that we knew. Immediately, we knew what the plans were going to be. We were going to visit two locations in western West Virginia. Places that we had each longed to visit. I was going to finally visit the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, WV and Jason was going to be able to see the New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville, WV. We couldn't be happier with our plans.
We took our time and researched everything fully and settled on our plans. We woke up early and drove to Weston, WV and arrived at the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum at 11:30. The first tour was set to start at Noon. I had already ascertained and decided on the tours that we would be doing, so I quickly paid and we went out to wait for our tour to start. Ohhh my word, this building and tour is everything I could have imagined. This building is quite historic and is just teeming with stories and happenings.
WeThe tour guide was knowledgeable and was able to give a history of the architecture and inhabitants through a variety of stories and information about the site. I already want to go back!
We were tired at that point so we headed to our hotel. We stayed at the Hampton Inn and we couldn't be any happier with our hotel. The staff working the hotel were super friendly and the building was immaculate. It was so clean in fact that we asked if the building has just been built and opened to the public!
The next morning we were ready to head to our next destination, The New River Gorge. Before we left the town though, we decided to head into the Museum of American Glass. This museum dedicated to glassware was interesting. We enjoyed the oil lamp collection and I absolutely loved the Lady Jane Stained Glass Dollhouse. The drive from Weston to Fayetteville was through mountains where nature surrounded us. The scenery alone made the drive worthwhile. It was about an hour drive and eventually we arrived! We were so excited to get our first glimpse of the bridge. We started at the National Park Service visitor Center parking lot. We walked the boardwalks to the overlooks and took in the bridge.
It is hard to describe the massive proportions of the bridge. This thing is huge!
This is located in a national park and unfortunately, due to the ongoing pandemic the visitor center was closed. However all overlooks and trails were open. We took every chance we could to see the bridge.
One of the highlights of this weekend was the visit to Thurmond, WV. This is an abandoned town nestled in the bottom of the gorge. Once a boom town, this town slowly faded to a collection of empty buildings as the coal mines shut down. The buildings are intact and have been secured and maintained by the National Park Service. The commerce area of the town is right on the edge of the railroad tracks while the residential area stood on the hill above the town. Walking through this town was amazing. It is hard to not think about the people that walked those roads many years before.
The trail system and scenery in this area are second to none. There are trails that take you to overlooks, trails that take you to abandoned coal mines and trails that lead you to rivers edge. It seemed as if we saw a waterfall at every turn, each one just as pretty as the one before. We could have stayed for a week and still not seen and experienced everything that this area has to offer. There are mountain bike trails, miles of hiking, ruins, kayaking and so much more.
On this trip, we even managed to squeeze in a quick visit to the Monster Museum in Sutton, WV! The quirkiness of this little museum was a great stop along the drive home.
We have already decided that we will be returning to New River Gorge as soon as possible. It's pretty and full of activities that will have you appreciating history and nature. A weekend at New river Gorge National Park and visiting Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was a perfect getaway!
Check out the in detail descriptions for the locations visited during this trip
New River Gorge
Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
Museum of American Glass
A visit to The New River Gorge National Park would not be complete without a visit to the town of Thurmond, WV. Before we visited the area, I did my due diligence and researched many of the attractions and trails in the area. We only had a short time during that visit and I wanted to see as much as I could and to hit the most important locations. As soon as I saw the words ‘abandoned town’, I was hooked! Thurmond was one of the ‘musts’ for this trip!
The town of Thurmond was once a bustling boom town. The steady flow of money from the local coal mines and the railroad station in town fueled the economy. Over the years the coal mines began to shut down which caused a decline in the financial wealth of this community. Simultaneously, the rise in popularity of the automobile brought around a steep decrease in passenger train travel, which further hampered the economic prosperity of the town. Slowly, people began to leave the town for more prosperous towns. In the 2010 Census, the population of the town was listed as 5 and most of the buildings are now owned by the National Park Service.
The Commercial Area of Thurmond, WV
The first thing you will see as you drive into the town is the train station. This station has been completely redone and serves as a visitor center for the National Park. It is the focal point of the town. This is still a flag stop for Amtrak service. So if you want to begin and/or end your vacation in Thurmond, you can definitely arrive by train!
To tour the business area of the this abandoned town you will be walking along the railroad tracks. The commercial area of town is nestled between the side of the mountain and the railroad tracks. These railroad tracks are still owned, operated and used by CSX, so please be careful. It is fascinating to walk by the businesses and imagine how life was in this town during the heyday when it was a bustling center of activity that while small was so prosperous that it was able to support two banks.
The Coaling Tower
There are still remnants of the bygone era of steam locomotives. The coaling tower still stands tall and proud at the end of the commerce section of town. Along with some of the outbuildings that supported the thriving railroad. Proud of the history of this town, in recent years they have held a Thurmond Train day for rail fans.
The Residential Area of town
We walked through the commercial area of the town and walked by a few buildings that were obviously residential in nature before we came to a winding road that led up the side of the mountain. It was a hot day when we were there, but we decided to walk up a bit of the hill to explore. Oh my word! I am so glad I did. Abandoned house after abandoned house stood at the side of the road a testament to the lives that had been lived in this town. The houses have been secured by the National Park service, so they are not readily available for entry. However, it is possible to walk onto the porches and peer in some windows.
Remnants of lives once happily lived are evidenced in the flowers that were once carefully planted but now grow wild. As we wound up the hill and back down, we came across the town church standing proud on the side of the mountain. Oh, if walls could talk!
Thurmond, WV quickly became the absolute favorite part of our visit to this area. It is not often you get to walk through an abandoned ghost town that is still almost fully intact. The history and vibe of the area was something to behold! We explored that town as fully as we could! We have both on many different occasions since we have been home have made the remark that we will go back to that town to explore more!
For more about this area, check out The New River Gorge Bridge.
I have heard so much about the New River Gorge Bridge! Jason had always wanted to see the the bridge and I had grown interested through hearing about him talk about this bridge. We were in Western West Virginia to visit the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum and realized that the New River Gorge was only an hour away. We had to go! Completed in 1977, The New River Gorge Bridge opened as the worlds longest single span arch bridge. It held that record for 26 years. Even now, it remains the fourth largest single span bridge. The bridge was built as a means of traveling from one side of the gorge to the other. Before the completion of this bridge traversing from one side to the other required a 40 minute trip down to the bottom of the gorge and back up the other side. The new bridge reduced the travel time to roughly one minute.
National Park Service Visitor Center
We arrived at the new river gorge around lunch time. We couldn’t wait to lay our eyes on this bridge that we had heard so much about! We immediately headed to the National Park Service Visitor Center parking. I knew that the actual visitor center was closed due to the pandemic, but the website had indicated that the boardwalks and overlooks were open. While it would have been nice to be able to see and learn more about the bridge , I was grateful that I would still be able to visit the overlooks. After all, that was what I came for! We parked in the parking lot at the National Park visitors center. We were ready to get our first taste of the New River Gorge Bridge!
There were signs that indicated the direction to the overlook. The path quickly turns into a wooden boardwalk. The walk is easy and in just a few short moments you will come to the first overlook. We could see the bridge and we stood in awe for a bit.
AThis boardwalk trail was not over though. There are a series of steps that head down to a second overlook. We didn’t have to ponder long. Although as we headed down there was a bit of trepidation about the return climb up the steps. Halfway down the steps there is a nice area that includes some benches if you need a break. We reached the bottom and the view was spectacular. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized exactly how deep this gorge is and how utterly mammoth this bridge really is.
The hike back up isn’t too bad. We were out of breath but it only took a few minutes. We decided to walk a bit around the visitor center area and we came to a second overlook. This on also had some neat displays showing information about the bridge.
After we had explored all we could see we headed out. It wasn’t until the next day that we explored the bridge more fully.
Fayette station road
The road that up until 1977 had been the primary means to get from one side of the gorge to the other is called the Fayette Station Road. It is still open and the visitor center offers audio tours of this road. I knew from my pre-trip research that we could stream the audio tour in lieu of going into the visitor center (which was closed). Perfect! We happily headed on this tour. The audio tour is well done. It gives the history and background of this road that winds down and then back up the mountain utilizing switchbacks while carrying you by sheer rock walls and waterfalls.
Along the way there are ample opportunities to stop to view the New River Gorge Bridge. Each different view and angle only reinforces the mammoth proportions of this bridge. At the bottom of the gorge there is camp/day use area with plenty of parking. This allowed us the chance to view up close the river that runs through the gorge. We saw kayakers drop into the water, fisherman fishing and swimmers enjoying the cool temperature of the water on a hot day. We took the opportunity to walk back to the bridge that spans the water at the bottom of the gorge. It was here that we were given a full view of the bridge.
andThe Fayette Station Road has a few pull offs that are at trailheads. We hiked one of the trails for a bit, enjoying the flowing water of streams and the gushing waterfalls that the trail took us too.
The overlooks located at the visitor center and the views of the new River Gorge bridge from the Fayette Station were spectacular and made the bridge experience a most amazing part of this trip! The new River Gorge is definitely a must see location!
For More West Virginia travel, visit the Museum of American Glass in Weston, WV and Thurmond and abandoned town in the New River Gorge Area.
Nestled in the heart of downtown Weston, WV sits a little gem of a museum, The Museum of American Glass. This museum is dedicated to the artform that is American Glass. We were in town to visit the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum but I didn't want to leave town until I knew that I had seen all that there was to see. I turned the online resources to see if there were any other must see attractions. The Museum of American Glass kept appearing on my screen.
Do I really want to go see Glass?
Glass? I kept asking myself. Do I really want to go into a building full of glassware? I debated. I went back and forth in my decision. At one moment I would be thinking that I should really go to the museum because when would I be back in the town of Weston, WV and the museum was free to tour! After a few minutes though, I would be back to the thought that it sounded, well....boring! When we left the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum after a full day of tours, we actually drove by the museum. The mural on the side of the building was neat and I was temporarily swayed to go visit. But not that night, we were tired and it was time to go get some dinner and go back to our hotel.
I went back and forth with the decision all evening long. To go or not to go, that was the true question of the evening. The next morning I woke up quite early. I knew that we had to make a decision about the Museum of American Glass soon because we were leaving town in just a few short hours! I picked up my phone and pulled up their website once again. This time, something caught my eye! I saw that they had a nice collection of Oil Lamps!
I knew at that exact moment that we would be going to this museum. Jason has a keen interest in antique oil lamps and has his own collection. This was now something that would have interest to us! I got ready to close out of the website and my eyes caught sight of something else. The website announced a new display. It announced the arrival of a Lady Jane Stained Glass Dollhouse. I build, collect and love miniature houses. I was hooked now!
There was no question about going to visit this museum now. The website indicated that on the day we were going to visit that they opened at 9:30. We arrived at 10AM. The museum is housed in a storefront in the downtown of Weston, WV. We stopped to look at the interesting displays that they had in the front windows before walking inside.
We walked in and we were greeted with a room full of display cases. There was multi colored glass filling each case. While we knew what we really wanted to see, we knew that we were going to enjoy and explore the complete museum. I saw glassware from companies that I was familiar with, such as Fenton. But there were various glass pieces from glass makers that I had never heard about.
While the array of colors and types of glassware was amazing, we were happy strolling through the museum and taking in the vibrant colors. The curators of this museum have each glass maker separate so we were able to see the glass art displayed before us. While each maker was identified, there was not much background information displayed. We stopped and read the names of the glass makers, but I would have loved to learn more about each one.
Eventually we came to the oil lamps and we slowed down and really perused the displays. They have some amazing and unique oil lamps on display.
We say displays about glassworks and glassblowing and then I saw the Stained Glass dollhouse. It was huge! I was in my glory.
The museum of American Glass was a neat little visit. We only spent about a half hour to hour in the museum, but it was an interesting collection and the price was right. While I would have liked to have seen a bit more information on the collections so that I could learn more about each glassmaker, I would definitely recommend a visit to this museum. This museum is a great way to round out a trip to Weston, WV.
I first learned about the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum somewhere right around 2010. I had been searching for abandoned and historical buildings online and the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum came into my radar. I read all that I could about the building. I was fascinated with the history and filled with thankfulness that this building had been purchased and open to the public for tours. Immediately, this location skyrocketed to one of the top three places to visit on my bucket list. I wanted to visit the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in a really bad way. Unfortunately, life and circumstances kept me away. I may have not been able to visit at that point, but I kept a close eye on the website. I was pleased to see that the tours were supplying the funds for ongoing restoration. As a result, through the years they began to offer a larger variety of tours and more access to the property. My interest only grew, but more years passed.
FINALLY, the arrangements were made and I had plans to go visit the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. I was beside myself with excitement. I had researched the different tours and I knew that there were two of the available tours that I was planning on taking. I wanted to do the Four Floor tour and the Criminally Insane Tour. We planned to arrive in time to start with the first tour, which would give us the option to add on a third tour at the end of the day if time permitted.
We pulled up to the building and I was practically giddy! The pictures that I had seen (and that I took) do not do this building justice. This building is quite immense and imposing. (I am honestly struggling to not just fill up this post with pictures!)
The building was opened in 1864 and operated as a hospital until 1994. It was opened under the name of Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum but later changed its name to Weston State Hospital in the year 1913. The name was changed back to “Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum” when it was reopened to the public for tours. This imposing structure is the largest hand cut stone building in the United States and is the second largest in the world, second only to the Kremlin in Moscow.
The main floor opens up to a grand entrance that has been beautifully restored. Here you will have the chance to buy your tickets, sign your waiver and visit the gift shop. Your price of your admission (no any of the variety of tours) will give you access to the museum which is housed on the main floor and right wing of the main floor. There are artifacts from life in this mental hospital and the property that included fields for producing their own food and a coal mine. As you walk through the right wing you will see various examples of common treatments for mental illness. You can read about them and then take in the re-creations that they have set up.
The first tour in my day was the Four Floor Tour. This guided tour is fantastic. In 2020 it was $30 and will last for about 90 minutes. The tour guide will lead you through the main building and talk about the various features of the architecture and history of the building. The tour guide will point out various points of interest and will share stories of the patients and personnel who lived, worked and resided in this grand building. During the tour there will be opportunities to learn about the history and uses of the other buildings that surround the main building on this medical campus. The tour will lead you through beautifully restored areas. You will see what the building looked like when it was at the height of it’s use.
However you will also see similar areas that are showing signs of the years of disuse and decay. The juxtaposition between the two is amazing to witness.
The tours will lead you through many areas of the building that are rough and raw and showing signs of the years decay. You will see the peeling paint. You will see decay as you learn about how the areas were used. You will see the sheer beauty of this building.
The four floor tour will also give you access to the Medical Building. This building served as the for not only the asylum but also for the community. While this building may not be as old and prestigious as the main building, the history and stories are no less plentiful and fascinating.
We were absolutely pleased with our tour and our tour guide. It was 90 minutes of amazing sights and fabulous stories about what we were seeing. But our day was not over yet! We had a thirty minute break before our next tour. We spent our time strolling through the museum portion of the building. The artifacts are well displayed and you can tell that they were carefully chosen to convey the life of the people that worked in the building as well as the life that was created for the patients that spent most of their lives within the confines of this property.
All too soon it was time for our next tour but we knew that we would have time to see the rest later in the day! Up next was the Criminally Insane Tour. Yes, this hospital housed the criminally insane and at one point they had a building that was built for this exact purchase. This tour is again led by a tour guide who was quite knowledgeable In fact, we were lucky enough to get the same tour guide for this tour but even luckier, we were the only two people on our tour. A personal tour! We headed back to the criminally insane building. Our tour guide let us peak into the windows of the hospital library and look at the patient graffiti that still graced the walls outside the library before heading into the main portion of the building.
This tour was just as good as the first tour. We learned that they housed two types of patients in this building. They housed the patients that were deemed criminally insane but the state also used the building to house prisoners while they were awaiting on the trial for their mental competency. The doctors and staff of the hospital would work with the prisoners/patients to determine the level of their sanity. Much of the building was in a dorm room style where these criminally insane patients were housed together. The stories, history and architecture on this tour was just as impressive as the first tour that we went on. It was a great decision to add this tour onto our day’s activities. It was an additional $15, but worth every penny.
After our two tours we continued to explore the museum and visited the gift shop. We were seriously debating adding on the Daytime Paranormal tour to our day . This tour would lead us through the buildings. It would be full of stories of paranormal experiences and show different areas that were noted to have higher than average paranormal events. We eventually decided to not do the tour so that we would have plenty of time to enjoy the museum.
Visiting the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was on my bucket list for years and after visiting, I question why I waited so long to actually visit. The money from the tours goes back into the building and each year they work on restoring and stabilizing this grand building, so the money is well spent. But these tours are preserving not only the buildings, they are preserving the stories and the life that was held within these buildings. As we were driving away Jason looked at me and said “we will have to come back to Weston, West Virginia in a few years to do the paranormal tour and to see what they have restored!” Yes, this building really is that awesome!
Belief In Living
Travel with us as we explore!