museums

History Lives at Adaland Mansion, Philippi,WV.

I was recently invited to have a lunch date with some friends and co-workers at   Adaland a Victorian mansion high on a hill in Barbour County, West Virginia. The historic register mansion is a pre-civil war home, built-in 1870, that has been restored and is now open to the public. The Adaland Mansion received its name when Federal Judge Ira E. Robinson bought the home in the 1920’s and renamed the property after his beloved wife Ada Sinsel. It is in her honor that the home has become one of the regions most loved locations for weddings and fine events.

front veiw of Adaland Manison

Front view of Adaland Mansion

Adaland Mansion Philippi WV backside

Rear entry area of Adaland Mansion

 

 

The 13 volunteer caretakers of the home and acreage offer seasonal home tours, high tea’s, theater performance and lunch buffet to tour guests and families who rent the home and pavilion for special events.  The home’s history is long and well documented. Even at one time-serving as a coal mine superintendent’s home and engineering office. Anker Energy company was the last owner of the property before donation to the City of Philippi in 1996. At that time, the house was ready to be razed, the barn had collapsed, the land was overgrown and the farm was generally forgotten.It took a dedicated group of volunteers to begin the restoration of the home and do the fund-raising necessary for the project.

volunteers at Adaland Mansion

Susie and Karen two of the many volunteers in dinning area of Adaland Mansion.

I was taken back by the quality of the restoration and the amazing luck that most of the historic detail of the home had remained.The black walnut trim and paneling in the house are original and were produced on the farm.The bricks from the house were also formed and fired at the farm property. The furnishings are mostly donated from the local community and the decor was researched and replaced to the correct time period and installation method.  The experience is time traveling back to a more elegant and formal way of life. The home originally housed servants (at least three at a time) and has servants quarters and an additional  kitchen in the basement. Adaland was also a way-station for travelers so the house plans included a bedroom just for them, with a separate entrance for people traveling the Staunton-Parkersburg turnpike near Philippi.  Here a rider could get out of the cold, get a hot meal and sleep in safety while in one of the mansion’s bedrooms. There is also a large and grand lawyers office next to the travelers room, both are on the main floor and I wondered how many times the Judges clients traveled from all over the state to see him and stayed in the little room next door to his office. The office holds many of the books and documents that Judge Robinson used while serving the people of West Virginia.

Servent stairs and travelers door way Adaland Mansion

second story porch with servants staircase and travelers room door on porch with on interior access to the family

Law office of Federal Judge Ira E Robinson

Judge Ira E. Robinson’s office Adaland Mansion

 

We eat a lovely meal that I wished I had photographed, but it was just plain rude to take photos at the table while we enjoyed the company of friends and co-workers. The meal included a garden salad,  BB-Q pulled pork, roasted chicken, home-made bread, corn, bake beans, mix vegetables, boiled potatoes and  desert of many kinds. I chose a serving of peach cobbler with whipped cream. It was wonderful, fresh and homemade in the kitchen of the house.

lunch at Adaland Manison

lunch served in dinning room of Adaland Mansion. All food is homemade in the kitchen in the rear of photo.

buffet in dinning room of Adaland Manison

flowers on buffet in front room of Adaland Mansion converted to seating for luncheon.

Our tour shared lots of information about the families who lived and died on the farm over the century. There is a small cemetery on the property,and barn that is open to visitors. The barn also hosts historical demonstrations of trades that took  place in the early 1900’s when events are held.Visitors are also encouraged to explore the 22 acres that the house still sits on today.

Barns of Adaland Mansion from house

barn and shed below Adaland Mansion

The outdoor pavilion is a new addition to the property and is the main location for weddings and family events during the summer months. Making Adaland a perfect location for large groups and a place where a bride and groom can stay away from the hectic pace of town and sleep in historic bedrooms before, during and after a wedding.

 

 

I hope to return to Adaland over the summer to see one of their Murder Mystery Dinners. Events sell out quickly and reservations are needed to have a meal at an event. Their website includes an event calender for the full year so visitors have pleanty of time to stop in. It was wonderful to stop my hecktec day and slow down to relax and enjoy this very unique home. I hope you enjoy a visit too.

 

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Barbour County, Building rehabilitation, Cemetaries, historic locations, history, Home, museums, Nonprofit, West Virginia History | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Halloween visit to the haunted Lunatic Asylum

Visiting the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is my favorite place to explore as an artist and photographer.So when a friend explained a desire to see the huge building in person this Halloween, I was over joyed to share my love with them. So Oct 29th we spent the day exploring and learning about one of West Virginia’s most unusual places. The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, constructed between 1858 and 1881, is the largest hand-cut stone masonry building in North America, and is purportedly the second largest in the world, next to the Kremlin. With the VIP tour tickets in hand, we spent our morning learning about the treatment and care of our mentally ill and how it has changed over the last 140 years. We also took this unique opportunity to photograph something that is in various stages of restoration and decay. The TALA was closed in 1994 due to the deterioration of the facility and changes in the laws about care of those who suffer from mental illness. At that time the State of West Virginia had no plan for the future of the building  and the 300 acres of farm land that they now had owned in the center of a sleepy farm town.cropped-fall-afternoon-on-the-lawn-of-the-trans-allegheny-lunatic-asylum-west-wv-2016.jpg

The Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum fell into deep disrepair over the next 9 years leaving the community of Weston, West Virginia to wonder what the future would hold for their Georgian style monument. Would the building be sold off one huge block at a time, would a developer take control  of the land and building and turn it into something that would help the small town or would the TALA just fall apart from neglect. In 2003 Lewis County got its answer as  Morgantown asbestos demolition contractor  Joe Jordan bought the nationally listed historic building for 1.5 million dollars. It was the start of a new beginning for the building and the town.

As a local resident for many years, I have always heard the ghost stories told about the Asylum. I always wanted to get inside to see for myself if it was as spooky and mysterious as reported. Over the years I have been inside some of the buildings, but this trip I was astounded at the amount of work that the Jordan family has committed to doing. Here is just a sample of  images that show what kind of shape the building was in 2007 and in some cases still is today.

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Drop cloth on the floor of the plaster repair shop TALA.

 

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Sunlight on a solitary confinement room at the TALA.

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Washing sink in the kitchen food prep area of the hospital. This seems to be one of the first sinks in this area the newer ones are stainless steel.

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Creepy reflections appear in a widow at the medication dispensary area of the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.

The woman on the left is a lady as part of our tour group… the older woman on the right without a body remains a mystery. I also have several photos with orbs in them and some believe that the orbs are images of spirits that are in the room.

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Lilly’s room at the TALA where at times ghostly things happen with the toys offered to her.

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Single desk in a common area of the TALA with bared windows and chipping paint.

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Metal bed frame imprinted into the tile floor of one of the patient rooms.

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Sunlight streams through a cobweb covered window looking out on another portion of the TALA.

 

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Doors and windows and grotesque faces on the back of the civil war section of the building of the TALA.

Our tour took us up the three  floors of the main building and from the civil war era to almost modern times with in the building. Each tour that Greg gives is slightly different and geared for the group he leads.Some portions of the main building have been restored had wonderful time period furnishings and made visitors understand what the buildings intended purpose was in the 1800’s.

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Tour guide Greg showing off some of the furniture that is original to the TALA.

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What a room at the TALA could look like for those who were well-behaved.

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Common room area niche with “tea time” table setting on first floor wing

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The first item to be restored was the clock tower and clocks the color that was chosen for the trim of the tower is a color match from the 1800’s.

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My friend Alex Smits in the reflection of a mantel mirror in the restored administrators office at the TALA.

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Second floor nurses quarters unmarried nurses were allowed to live at the TALA and these are were they would have visited and relaxed in the common areas.

The VIP tour lasts around 90 to 95 minutes and covers every area inside the large stone building from the entry area to the scary electro-shock therapy rooms and solitary confinement rooms. It showed what the building was meant to be and also showed visitors what really happened in the days of over crowding when a one person room would have three or four living in small 10 x 10 cells that reminded me of prison cells rather than recovery rooms.

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Observation window in the wall of the shock therapy room.

Alex and I both felt a mixture of fascination and horror while on the tour when we found out the many ways Dr.’s tried to “help” the people who found themselves committed here. I have often been disappointed in our fellow-man but when a person realizes the reasons that were used to place people in facilities like this one… if makes the hair stand up on the back of you neck.

REASONS FOR ADMISSION
WEST VIRGINIA HOSPITAL FOR THE INSANE (WESTON)
OCTOBER 22, 1864 to DECEMBER 12, 1889Amenorrhea
Asthma
Bad company
Bad habits & political excitement
Bad whiskey
Bite of a rattle snake
Bloody flux
Brain fever
Business nerves
Carbonic acid gas
Carbuncle
Cerebral softening
Cold
Congetion of brain
Constitutional
Crime
Death of sons in the war
Decoyed into the army
Deranged masturbation
Desertion by husband
Diptheria
Disappointed affection
Disappointed love
Disappointment
Dissipation of nervesDissolute habits
Dog bite
Domestic affliction
Domestic trouble
Douby about mother’s ancestors
Dropsy
Effusion on the brain
Egotism
Epileptic fits
Excessive sexual abuse
Excitement as officer
Explosion of shell nearby
Exposure & hereditary
Exposure & quackery
Exposure in army
Fall from horse
False confinement
Feebleness of intellect
Fell from horse
Female disease
Fever
Fever & loss of law suit
Fever & nerved
Fighting fire
Fits & desertion of husband

Gastritis
Gathering in the head
Greediness
Grief
Gunshot wound
Hard study
Hereditary predisposition
Ill treatment by husband
Imaginary female trouble
Immoral life
Imprisonment
Indigestion
Intemperance
Interferance
Jealousy
Jealousy & religion
Kick of horse
Kicked in the head by a horse
Laziness
Liver and social disease
Loss of arm
Marriage of son
Masturbation & syphillis
Masturbation for 30 years
Medicine to prevent conception

Menstrual deranged
Mental excitement
Milk fever
Moral sanity
Novel reading
Nymphomania
Opium habit
Over action on the mind
Over heat
Over study of religion
Over taxing mental powers.
Parents were cousins
Pecuniary losses: worms
Periodical fits
Political excitement
Politics
Puerperal
Religious enthusiasm
Religious excitement
Remorse
Rumor of husband’s murder or desertion
Salvation army
Scarlatina
Seduction
Seduction & dissappointment

Self abuse
Severe labor
Sexual abuse and stimulants
Sexual derangement
Shooting of daughter
Smallpox
Snuff
Snuff eating for two years
Softening of the brain
Spinal irritation
Sun stroke
Sunstroke
Superstition
Supressed masturbation
Supression of menses
Tabacco & masturbation: hysteria
The war
Time of life
Trouble
Uterine derangement
Venerial excesses
Vicious vices in early life
Women
Women trouble
Young lady & fear

Sources: http://www.trans-alleghenylunaticasylum.com/main/history3.html

In most cases we would all be committed and institutionalized for the rest of our lives here if they still fallowed these reasons. Thank goodness we have modern medications and treatments.Yet, our tour guide repeatedly told us that several patients at the Asylum cried and became distraught when they closed down the building and had to be move. Some patients had lived inside the gates of the TALA their whole lives and were not stable enough to understand why they had to leave.

No matter how you feel about the TALA it is an interesting tour and a very educational one. I left the building with mixed feelings, I felt shame and heart-break for the people who lived here, fascination for the history and architecture, scared in some of the rooms and by the detailed information given about procedures and treatments. I felt sadness while looking at the art of the patients. I did not include many of my photos because the drawings and painting evoke such strong emotions that I felt as if I was sharing something very personal and did not have the right to.

In the end I had a great time, I got spend time with someone I really enjoy, and got to take photos of a historic old creepy building.. what a wonderful Halloween I had.

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Civil War, Halloween, Lewis County, museums, Photos, sickness, Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, Travel, wellness | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Victorian Era Mummies in West Virginia

This is a story of one West Virginia mans curious mind. How he managed to develop a formula for making mummies and how he refused to give his secret formula away for years.How his experiments resulted in two mummified females from the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (also known as the TALA in Weston, Lewis County, WV) and how they have survived for over 120 years.

Image being alive during the Victorian Period (1837 to 1901) in the United States. Interest in all the sciences was growing and new discoveries were happening in every field. The interest in Egyptian culture and mummies is fueled by the discovery of the Pharaoh  Ramses II  in 1881. People are collecting relics of everything human, bones, teeth, hair and death masks were all common.Ordinary people are struck with deep curiosity about our world and how it worked.P.T. Barnum was touring the country with a spectacular collection of wild animals, strange entertainment acts, and items collected from around the world. Sideshows traveled small towns with strange examples of natural oddities that everyone could see for a few cents.So for one farmer/undertaker is was a wonderful time to explore his own curiosity about Egypt and their mummies.

Barbour County Courthouse, Philippi, West Virginia built 1903

Barbour County Courthouse, Philippi, West Virginia circa 1903

Graham Hamrick of Philippi, WV was not only a farmer but also a local undertaker. In his life he was educated in common burial processes and use of embalming fluids. He found the process of mummification interesting and wanted to learn more. It is stated that he found his formula with in the pages of the Bible somewhere among the pages of The Book of Genesis. With a secret formula in hand, Hamrick gathered materials and began to experiment with the process. Hamrick is said to have mummified fruit, vegetables, small animals and snakes before the trying to mummify a human.

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Female Mummy #1 taller of the two

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Philippi Mummy #2 smaller of the two

To mummify a human Hamrick  would need human remains to prove his secret formula worked. Living with in a day ride to Weston, and the TALA, Hamrick  arranged for the purchase of two sets of unclaimed female remains at the insane asylum. This fact makes me sad for the two woman, who were forgotten by families, sold to a farmer and mummified instead of having proper burials. After transporting the remains to his farm Hamrick began the process of turning the remains into mummies.  crop of TALA front lawn on Easter

At the time the process is thought to have taken several weeks but no one was really sure how long. When Hamricks process finished and the results were visible, he had created what resembled Egyptian mummies.He began to share his successes with others in the local area and beyond.

Eventually, he was contacted by the Smithsonian Institute, who wanted to add the mummies to the museum’s collection and display them to the public with the formula he invented. The farmer refused to share the formula even though he had sent in the process into the U.S. Patent office.The mummies remained in Barbour county until they were recruited by P.T. Barnum’s for  his circus shows. The Mummies spent several years touring the United States during the end of the 1800’s.

Finally, they were returned to Barbour County and the Hamrick family. They stored the bodies in several different places over the years, in the barn on the farm, under the bed of a local history buff. Then in 1985 the two female mummies even survived the worst flood in North Central West Virginia.

 James Ramsey, an 82-year-old museum curator, explained in 1994: “After the flood dropped, they were covered with green fungus and all kind of corruption. [A man] secured some kind of a mixture that would get the green mold off them and also the hairs that were growing on them.”

The mummies would finally come to rest in the Philippi Historical Societies hands and be displayed at the Train Depot Museum,where they still remain to this day. They have the mummies displayed with the “Secret Formula” posted on the wall of the display room.

 

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Philippi, WV Train Depot Historical Society Museum

 

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Graham Hamrick information and formula

The Historical Society also was able to get a copy of a letter written by one of the ladies  before her death at the Tran Allegheny Insane Asylum. The transcription of the letter is sad. It is hard for me to believe this young woman (age around 17) would be left and forgotten by a husband and family. Yet,it gives us great insight into the world of the mentally ill in the 19th century.

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Transcription of a letter from mummified woman to family 1880’s

I found the whole experience to the Depot Museum  wonderful. The other objects in the collection are educational also. Most dating back to the civil war era and the stories of the battles that filled the hills of this town are worth their own trip to the museum. Philippi  being the location of the first land battle of the Civil War makes the entire town a treasure trove of stories for further visits.

If you are lucky enough to be traveling in the north central portion of West Virginia. Take Rt #250 through the historic covered bridge into Philippi to see the Mummies. The museum is on the right just across the river next to the train tracks. Pay the small donation fee and take a look at one the little Mummies that Philippi made.

I saw the Mummies in Philippi WV.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Barbour County, Country life, Farming, ghost stories, historic locations, mummies, museums, Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, traveling | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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