The Resource Records of Western State Hospital

Records of Western State Hospital

Records of Western State Hospital, 1825-2000
Records of Western State Hospital
Inclusive dates
The Western State Hospital collection contains a wide variety of bound volumes and paper records spanning 175 years (1825-2000). Included are administrative records such as annual reports, correspondence, office and subject files, meeting minutes, newsletters, photographs, and reports, as well as a specific departmental and program records relating to the Community Hospital Industrial Rehabilitation Program (CHIRP), the DeJarnette State Sanatorium, and the Shenandoah Geriatric Treatment Center (SGTC). Also included are financial records such as auditor's books, budget files, farm production records, and supply inventories. The patient-related records include admission registers, commitment papers, medical records, and several types of patient lists. Also included in this collection are a variety of report books created and maintained by staff members regarding patient admissions, attendants' rounds, ward activities, and many other duties performed at the hospital. The records of the Western State Hospital document many facets of the institution's operational history, patient life and medical treatment, as well as the evolution of mental health treatment in the Commonwealth of Virginia
Agency history record describes the history and functions of Western State Hospital. (Search author as Western State Hospital).
Member of
  • Accessioned
  • Described
  • Updated
Additional physical form
Admission Registers, 1828-1941 and Admission Register Index,1828-1930, also available on microfilm (Misc. Reels 6295-6301)
Biographical or historical data
  • In January 1825 the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation providing for the construction of an asylum in the western part of the state. A Court of Directors was commissioned by the Governor to serve as the asylum's governing body and charged with purchasing a site close to the town of Staunton, west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, on which to build an asylum to house the mentally ill of western Virginia. The institution, which became known as Western Lunatic Asylum, was the second mental health facility built in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The buildings and surrounding gardens were designed to embrace the idea of "moral therapy" for mentally ill patients by providing an aesthetically pleasing and tranquil atmosphere in which patients lived comfortably, exercised and worked outdoors.
  • Western Lunatic Asylum opened in 1828, accepting both male and female patients suffering from a variety of mental disorders. Common diagnoses included "hard study," "religious excitement," and "debility of the nervous system." The asylum was overseen by a Keeper, a Matron and a visiting physician during its earliest years. The hospital also employed attendants, gate keepers, night watch personnel, farm hands, and a steward who handled the day-to-day financial operations. The first superintendent appointed to oversee Western Lunatic Asylum was Dr. Francis T. Stribling. Dr. Stribling was a proponent of the moral therapy approach, and was a leader in the early mental health community. Dr. Stribling was one of the thirteen founders of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane, which later became known as the American Psychiatric Association. Dr. Stribling served as the hospital superintendent and as a physician until his death in 1874.
  • It should be noted that the hospital underwent a short-lived name change between 1861 and 1865, when it was known as Central Lunatic Asylum. (It should not be confused with an asylum of the same name later built in Petersburg, Virginia to house African American patients). From 1865 to 1894 the name was again Western Lunatic Asylum. However, in 1894 the General Assembly passed legislation changing the name to Western State Hospital.
  • Another highly influential superintendent at Western State Hospital was Dr. Joseph S. DeJarnette. Dr. DeJarnette was hired as a physician in 1889 and was appointed superintendent in 1905. His tenure was the longest of any superintendent at Western State. Dr. DeJarnette was also responsible for founding the DeJarnette State Sanatorium, which housed patients with the ability to pay for their treatment. Dr. DeJarnette remained the superintendent of Western State for 38 years, retiring in 1943 with many accolades. He served as superintendent of the sanatorium from its formation in 1932 to his full retirement in 1947. Dr. DeJarnette's involvement in the eugenics movement and his support of the involuntary sterilization of mental patients has in more recent years earned him a less favorable reputation.
  • Many of Western State Hospital's original structures remain standing on what is referred to as the "Old Site." Many of these structures are historically and architecturally significant and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. During the 1960s a newer hospital facility was constructed, and over the next decade patients and programs were slowly moved to the "New Site." Deinstitutionalization efforts and increased focus on localized community programs resulted in lower patient census numbers starting in the 1970s, and by the 1980s the Old Site had shut down completely. The Old Site was later converted into Staunton Correctional Center, which it remained until its closure in late 2002. The original grounds of Western State Hospital were eventually sold and are being converted into condominiums and retail space as part of an urban redevelopment plan.
  • Western State Hospital continues to serve the mental health needs of Virginia's citizens from the New Site in Staunton, Virginia. The hospital is part of the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) and is governed by the State Board of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.
Cataloging source
Citation source
Records of Western State Hospital
  • Part of Record Group 38 (Virginia Dept. of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services)
  • For preservation purposes, please use microfilm for Admission Registers, 1828-1941, and Admission Register Index, 1828-1930 (Misc. Reels 6295-6301). Interlibrary Loan copy of microfilm also available
  • The Western State Hospital collection came to the Library of Virginia in multiple accessions over two decades. In many cases, the original order of the material had been disturbed or was unidentifiable. In other instances, the provenance was unclear and an educated guess was made as to which person or office created the records. Care was taken to maintain the original order when possible, but for the most part, the arrangement of this collection is artificial. The series names and groupings were devised by the processing archivist in an attempt to create logical divisions within this large collection
  • Researchers should also note that Series VI. of the Western State Hospital finding aid describes correspondence, contracts, agreements, buildings and grounds records and other miscellaneous documents that were found during a records transfer at Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg, Virginia in February 2010. Many of the documents were created and used by building superintendent and architect Thomas R. Blackburn. According to records at Eastern State and Western State, these items were removed from the Western State archives in 1983 and used by researchers to accurately reconstruct the Public Hospital at Colonial Williamsburg. The records were never returned to Western State and were eventually found in a basement at Eastern State in 1987. The records were taken to the Eastern State archives where they were housed until the hospital transferred its historical records to the Library of Virginia. The records in Series VI. remain part of Eastern State Hospital accession 44812
  • Accession 50989 came from the Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents, which was previously known as the DeJarnette State Sanatorium. Because of the overlap between these records and the records found in the Western State Hospital records, as well as the fact that Joseph DeJarnette was the superintendent of both facilities, these records have been interegrated into this collection as Series VII
Arrangement varies by series.
  • The Library of Virginia
Cumulative index finding aids
  • Inventory
  • Inventory
  • 112.7
  • 1063 volumes.
Governing access note
  • Access to original records for Admission Registers, 1828-1941 and Admission Register Index,1828-1930, restricted: use microfilm
  • The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (Code of Virginia, 2.2-3705.5) and the Virginia Health Records Privacy Act (Code of Virginia, 32.1-172.1:03) establish guidelines for restricting access to medical and other confidential forms of information in order to protect personal privacy. Protected health information (PHI) as defined under the Privacy Regulations issued under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) includes, but is not limited to, personally identifiable information such as names, addresses, and social security numbers. The Virginia Public Records Act (Code of Virginia, 42.1-78) includes a provision for closing all privacy protected information for 75 years from the date of creation. In accordance with this legislation, the Library of Virginia can and will restrict, in whole or in part, access to any privacy protected medical information or any other confidential information contained in these records. Please see the "Access Restrictions" section of the finding aid for additional restriction information
Immediate source of acquisition
Burns, Kim - Western State Hospital, Administrative Office,
Organization method
Organized into the following series: Series I. Administrative Records, 1825-2000; Series II. Departmental and Programs Records, 1942-1983; Series III. Financial Records, 1838-1985; Series IV. Patient Records, 1826-1996; Series V. Report Books and Other Registers, 1847-1988; Series VI. Records Found at Eastern State Hospital, 1825-1918; Series VII. DeJarnette Sanatorium Admission Reigsters (Acc. 50989), 1932-1996.
Terms governing use
All researchers must sign a research agreement to use archival material. This agreement specifies that confidential or personally identifiable health information (PHI) less than 75 years of age that may be encountered during research will not be recorded, published, publicized, or re-disclosed to any other party for any purpose. Improper use and/or re-disclosure of privacy protected information is a breach of confidentiality which could result in the loss of access to the archival collections housed and maintained by The Library of Virginia, and could result in legal penalties (Code of Virginia, 18.2-186.3). Please see the "Use Restrictions" section of the finding aid for additional restriction information.
Type of unit
cu. ft. (260 boxes, 1 map drawer).

Library Locations

    • Library of VirginiaBorrow it
      800 East Broad Street, Richmond, VA, 23219, US
      37.5415632 -77.4360805
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