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Abandoned Sanatorium

On our way home from a family vacation, I found this abandoned mental hospital and knew I had to go explore it.

The hospital was slowly being taken over by the earth, knocked down walls and doorways were now invaded by mounds of dirt and debris. It just added to the spooky atmosphere of the building.

When we first walked in, we saw an old spring bed frame that was rusted and sitting in a corner. As we continued to explore, we found light fixtures and wires had been pulled from the ceilings, graffiti was everywhere, some warning of the dangers inside scrawled on the walls. When we found the kitchen the big freezer doors were closed. I decided to open them and inside I found a single chair sitting in the middle with spray painted words on the door "this is where you come to die" The next freezer had 2 old plastic mattresses one on top of the other taking up the whole freezer.

The scariest part was the basement. We made it down the metal stairs and once we got to the door to enter the dark hallways....... I heard a whisper. I couldn't understand what it was saying, it was more just noises. I hoped it was just the kids talking but they said they weren't. This is where the kids decided to leave us and walk to the store. John and I continued to explore the massive 4 story building.

All the rooms looked pretty much the same. One room had some piped that lead to a shower, but it had nozzles in all the corners and about five or so high. It reminded me of the decontamination chambers in the Nazi camps.

After exploring the main building we made our way down to the mechanical building. It had a very "steam punk" vibe. I loved it.

Walking through the grass to the front of the massive building we saw the scat of the new residents. We stumbled upon a furry little fellow trying to eat his lunch. She scurried away and back to his hole when he saw us. A bit further we saw 5 deer crossing the clearing to run into the trees.

If these walls could talk I'm sure there would be some amazing stories. It's so sad to see such a large and beautiful building deteriorate and become useless.


History of the building:

The DeJarnette Sanitarium was founded in 1932 by Dr. Joseph DeJarnette, who was also the director of the nearby Western State Hospital (the sanitarium was a private unit for middle-income patients that operated separately from the government-supported state hospital). DeJarnette was a respected doctor among the white Virginia elite at the time, but his career would ultimately be defined by his strong support for eugenics, specifically the forced sterilization of the mentally ill and others he deemed “defective.”

DeJarnette felt sterilization was the only way to preserve the integrity of society. In fact, and somewhat ironically, he was part of a larger movement toward more humane mental health treatment. But he was bullish on this point; he even wrote a poem extolling the virtues of proper human breeding and came to be known among his colleagues as “Sterilization DeJarnette.” DeJarnette lobbied passionately for the compulsory sterilization of members of society considered “unfit” to breed, and Virginia’s legislature served as the model for forced sterilization laws in at least 12 other states.

Though he was far from the only advocate of eugenics at the time, DeJarnette was one of the most passionate, and infamously commented that Nazi Germany was “beating us at our own game.” While it was legal under Virginia law, DeJarnette performed hundreds of forced sterilizations at the Western State Hospital. The so-called “unfit” included people with mental disabilities and epileptics, as well as those considered to be alcoholics or even promiscuous. A large percentage of victims were poor and African American or Native American. Following the atrocities of the Holocaust, the attitude toward eugenics in the United States went quickly downhill. Eventually, it was denounced as an inhumane pseudoscience, leaving DeJarnette’s reputation irreparably tarnished—although the practice of forced sterilization would continue in Virginia well into the 1970s.

The DeJarnette Sanitarium came under the control of the state in 1975 and was transformed into a children’s hospital, renamed the DeJarnette Center for Human Development. In 1996, the center was relocated to a new facility near the Western State Hospital and the original DeJarnette Sanitarium was shuttered for good. The building still stands empty on the hill; though there have been various plans for its demolition and redevelopment, none have yet come to fruition.

In 2001, the relocated DeJarnette Center was renamed the Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents due to the DeJarnette name’s association with eugenics. The state of Virginia has publicly apologized for the sterilization program, and offered a reparations settlement to its victims


To read more about Joseph Dejarnette check out the wiki page at


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