Silver / 2016 / Book / Documentary

If These Walls Could Talk

  • Prize
    Bronze in Book Proposal (Series Only)/Other, Silver in Book Proposal (Series Only)/Documentary
  • Photographer
    BD Richardson

"If These Walls Could Talk" is a study of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. It was built in the 1850s, just before the American Civil War, in the mountains of West Virginia, not far from many of the iconic battlefields, including Gettysburg and Antietam. A few years after the war, it was filled to over capacity. Grieving family members, soldiers and countless others, unnamed, called it home. This huge compound is a prime example of the most advanced medical architecture of the time, which held that inter-connected pavilions, bathed in natural light and pastel colors, would help in the treatment of mental illnesses. Despite amazing medical advances since the mid-1800s, mental health is still shrouded in mystery and misunderstanding. The mind is elusive and its treatment controversial. With changes in the laws and the growing inability to "commit" people against their will, the facility was closed in 1994.