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  1. #1
    mattbellphoto's Avatar
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    Staunton, VA - abandoned asylums

    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 and the children's/Dejarnette asylum here. 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):



    Older digital shots:
    First trip to Dejarnette
    Second trip to Dejarnette
    The adult asylum/prison
    Last edited by mattbellphoto; 11-02-2008 at 11:31 AM. Click to view previous post history.
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  2. #2

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    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.

  3. #3
    Sanjay Sen's Avatar
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    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!


    Best,
    Sanjay

  4. #4
    gainer's Avatar
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    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.
    Gadget Gainer

  5. #5

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    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.

  6. #6
    Colin Corneau's Avatar
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    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.

  7. #7

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    Question about DeJarnette.

    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.

  8. #8
    mattbellphoto's Avatar
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    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:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattbell/3372445837/
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  9. #9

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    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 and posted this one on photosig. I'd be up for a weekend APUG meetup type thing - it's around a 5 hour drive for me I'd guess.

    Dan

  10. #10
    keithwms's Avatar
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    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.
    "Only dead fish follow the stream"

    [APUG Portfolio] [APUG Blog] [Website]

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