View Full Version : Staunton, VA - abandoned asylums

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11-02-2008, 10:42 AM
I'm curious if anyone has been through Staunton, Virginia.

I'm from central NC (greensboro-ish area), but some years ago i developed a fascination with Staunton, and especially some of its older architecture.

It's a 4+ hour trek from where I go to school, but me and several friends have driven up there about a half dozen times, primarily to photographer the abandoned asylums.

That's what peaked my initial interest.

I stopped at a Sheetz while driving north up 81, and notice a large ominous and seemingly abandoned building on a hill nearby. I was lucky enough to be traveling with friends equally enthusiastic on exploring this location. And I've been in love with the place ever since.

It's only the last few visits that we've actually explored the town itself. And it's quite charming.

We still mainly go up to explore/photograph the abandoned Dejarnette Children's Asylum and the old Western State Hospital (adult asylum/prison).

Of course this is a very "enter at your own risk" kind of place, but we've never encountered any trouble visiting Dejarnette. The adult asylum is a bit riskier. It was being renovated and converted into condos when we last went. And it's been some time, so I would imagine they are being lived in by now. Though, the adult asylum is a large facility with several buildings, and only a few were being converted at that time.

The adult asylum can be seen mapped out here (http://www.flickr.com/map?&fLat=38.144&fLon=-79.065&zl=1&map_type=hyb) and the children's/Dejarnette asylum here (http://www.flickr.com/map?&fLat=38.1306&fLon=-79.045&zl=1&map_type=hyb). Some of mine and other's images are geo-tagged on the maps.

The adult asylum is more than a dozen buildings, including the main "campus" of seven or eight buildings, those towards the main entrance being renovated, a round automotive workshop off to the east, a large barn/slaughterhouse off to the south, a "yard", a few guard towers, nearby staff living corders, large "parking" on the southern side, and a very creepy cemetery on a hill off to the south full of evenly space unmarked gravestones. When we first visited it was also completely fenced-in with a few (large) openings. By now most of the fencing and probably a few other of my details are no longer there.

The Dejarnette Children's Asylum includes the two large main buildings, a newer constructed corridor connecting the two, a power building (a two boiler steam plant), a overseer's corders, a loading dock, and a small shed near the back road (where we usually park). It sits just off the highway at the top of a hill between a Sheetz gas station and the nearby Museum of Frontier Culture.

Some of my photos from Dejarnette (mostly 6x6 TMX):

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1179/867068753_023a7f2fc5_t.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattbell/867068753) http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1390/867068741_9de02ac081_t.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattbell/867068741) http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1295/993049758_de1b0a0494_t.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattbell/993049758) http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1231/992916466_fd80369d2f_t.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattbell/992916466) http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1398/992916354_fb3c73a6ed_t.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattbell/992916354) http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2024/2066393588_0af03406c7_t.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattbell/2066393588)

Older digital shots:
First trip to Dejarnette (http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/v719/alchemynojutsu/TRIPS/Dejarnette%20Childerns%20Asylum%202006-07-14/)
Second trip to Dejarnette (http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/v719/alchemynojutsu/TRIPS/Dejarnette%20Childerns%20Asylum%202006-12-03/)
The adult asylum/prison (http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/v719/alchemynojutsu/TRIPS/Dejarnette%20Asylum%20Prison%202007-03-03/)

11-02-2008, 11:21 AM
I have an ongoing series over at the DeJarnette Center. However if you want images you better floor it before the entire lot is razed. This site is about 10 minutes from my house. This place was certainly the site of many evils in days past. This was where DeJarnette performed sterlizations to hundreds of invalids and even to drunks. As I recall Dejarnette wrote some VA State statute about Eugenics which was supposedly adopted later on by the Nazis.

Sanjay Sen
11-02-2008, 12:56 PM
Interesting first post, and very nice images - I especially liked the 4x5 Polaroid one. BTW, is this a double (or multiple) exposure?

Welcome to APUG!


11-18-2008, 10:26 PM
Many years ago I would drive through Staunton (pronounced Stanton) from Newport News, VA to Glenville WV to see my folks. There is an old tale about a professor who had a flat tire just outside the fence. He set out to change to the spare. It was near dark and he lost the lug nuts in the tall grass. An inmate happened to be watching and suggested that the professor might take one lug nut from each of the other weels and be able to get home. The Professor expressed amazement that an inmate should have such intellect. The inmate said "I'm just crazy, not stupid."

Now I live in Tanner, WV, near Glenville.

11-20-2008, 07:20 PM
I think photographers are the patron saints of old buildings. The older the better and during renovation. And in black and white for added symbolism. That is one aspect of America that is seldom told, and your pictures add to that point counterpoint surrounding mental health issues.

Colin Corneau
11-20-2008, 07:54 PM
My city has an asylum on the hill overlooking the entire city - it looks amazingly like the one you photographed.

Similarly, it's been abandoned for a decade or so; although is now slowly being redeveloped, tastefully and respectfully, as a college.

I don't have quite the freedom you do -- a lot of bureaucratic hoops to jump through to be able to get in there. But, your images certainly are great inspiration to not forget.

04-17-2009, 01:06 PM
Ok. This may sound bad, but how do you get into DeJarnette? I'm from Staunton, and even from a younger age, this place has really intrigued me. I would also like to let you know they are boarding up the building on July first.

04-17-2009, 03:41 PM
I heard. I'm going to need to head up there again before that happens for one last romp.

I always entered from what I refer to as the back entrance. The door was never locked and was usually standing wide open. There are one or two other open/unlocked exterior doors as well.

The notes on my map show where:

04-17-2009, 04:11 PM
Staunton is a very pretty town. I've only been there once for the day (to see Shakespeare) and snapped a few photos with my digital. I've always wanted to go back. I have 4 photos from there on my website (http://www.dan-krebs.com/USA/index.htm) and posted this one on photosig (http://www.photosig.com/go/photos/view?id=1922098&forward=viewportfolio). I'd be up for a weekend APUG meetup type thing - it's around a 5 hour drive for me I'd guess.


04-17-2009, 04:18 PM
The DeJarnette ctr. is one of the venues we may consider for the upcoming C'ville photo get-together in May.

I have visited with Joe Harrigan and plan to go back very soon as part of a series on eugenics.

04-18-2009, 07:24 AM

I look forward to seeing this place in May....


Jeff Kubach
04-18-2009, 07:29 AM
I wouldn't mind seeing it either!


04-30-2009, 09:11 PM


05-02-2009, 08:27 PM
epic shots, Keith.

i love your mix of panoramic and detail shots.

and the paint peel shot is gorgeous.

05-03-2009, 08:42 AM
Thank you Matt, you are very kind.

06-06-2009, 06:34 PM
Great pictures. My wife and I stopped by there on our way back from WV. Took some perimeter shots, but didn't dare go inside Dejarnette. We were thinking of taking a road trip tomorrow from Ashland to visit again. How often have you been inside? Thanks in advance.

06-06-2009, 07:42 PM
I've been (in) there about 5 or 6 times.

Oddly enough, if my friend can get off work tomorrow, I might be making a trip up there as well.

06-06-2009, 07:53 PM
I've been (in) there about 5 or 6 times.

Oddly enough, if my friend can get off work tomorrow, I might be making a trip up there as well.

Very cool Matt. Thanks for the response. I believe the weather is supposed to be nice. I am still unsure about going in.......we are just going to go and see what come of the day!

07-08-2009, 09:09 AM
I went back a couple weekends ago.

I would've liked to have shot more, but couldn't.

I blogged about it here (http://mattbellphoto.blogspot.com/2009/07/dejarnette-final-trip.html).

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3551/3663897276_7491579c2f_m.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattbell/3663897276/) - http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3565/3663089325_3a2df422df_m.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattbell/3663089325/) - http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2576/3663092825_ca549d6d36_m.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattbell/3663092825/)

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3586/3663894060_20a7972b7d_m.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattbell/3663894060/) - http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2609/3663889240_b2b14a0aaa_m.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattbell/3663889240/) - http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3657/3663087569_2c4b42de94_m.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattbell/3663087569/)

Nikon F2
Nikon Ai 20mm f/2.8 lens
Scotch Color 100 35mm film (heat damaged and expired since '95)
Nikon CoolScan V ED 35mm film scanner
-RBG curves adjustment + DigitalICE dust removal in Nikon CoolScan 4
-resized in Photoshop/Bridge CS4

More pics in my Dejarnette Photo set (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattbell/sets/72157601355586410/).

08-07-2009, 06:41 PM
Have you heard about the status of the place since you posted that it was to be boarded up? Also, when you went were there any other buildings left that one could still shoot in? My boyfriend and I wanted to do a shoot there tomorrow.....