In brief: Mental health break, Groundhog Day and more

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After it closed in 2003, Western State was a magnet for ghost hunters and daring teens. Now it's going to be a deluxe inn.
Photo Daniel Stein After it closed in 2003, Western State was a magnet for ghost hunters and daring teens. Now it’s going to be a deluxe inn. Photo Daniel Stein

Seeking asylum

He’ll tell you it’s not haunted, but owner and developer Robin Miller acknowledges the twisted history of the new Blackburn Inn, his historic boutique hotel set to open in Staunton this spring.

Originally serving as the Western State Lunatic Asylum in the early 1800s, a hospital for the mentally ill—known for its electroshock therapy and lobotomies—the building became a medium-security men’s penitentiary in the late 1900s, until it was abandoned in 2003.

Where former residents wore straitjackets, inn guests will don complimentary bathrobes after a dip in the “luxurious soaking tubs” that will be available in four of the 49 rooms with 27 different floor plans.

“About 14 years ago was the first time I drove into downtown Staunton,” says Miller. “I looked over and saw the campus here and I fell in love with it.”

The Richmond-based developer with a second home in the same town as his new hotel has an assemblage of projects under his belt, including the recent redevelopment of Western State’s bindery, the building directly behind the Blackburn Inn, which he converted into 19 condos.

“It’s a combination of a beautiful, beautiful historic building with absolute top of the line, luxurious amenities and features,” Miller says about the inn, where he made use of the original wide corridors, hallway arches, vaulted ceilings and a wooden spiral stairwell that will allow guests to access the rooftop atrium. As for whether he expects a gaggle of ghost hunters to be his first customers: “That certainly wasn’t part of our marketing plan, but we don’t care why they want to stay here. We just want them to come and see it.”

Either way, we’re calling it a crazy good time.

Staunton’s former Western State Lunatic Asylum will reopen as a boutique hotel this spring. Among its features is the original wooden spiral stairwell (right), which has been refurbished and will allow access to a rooftop atrium. Courtesy blackburn inn, daniel stein

In brief

Kessler clockers continued

Four people charged with assaulting Jason Kessler the day after the deadly August 12 Unite the Right rally—Brandon Collins, Robert Litzenberger, Phoebe Stevens and Jeff Winder—had their cases moved to February 2—Groundhog Day—because the special prosecutor, Goochland Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Caudill, hadn’t seen video of Kessler being chased through the shrubbery. “These things keep coming up,” said Judge Bob Downer. “It’s like Groundhog Day.”

Another construction fatality

A construction worker died at the Linden Town Lofts site after a traumatic fall November 15, according to Charlottesville police. That was also the location of an early morning July 13 fire that engulfed a townhouse and four Jaunt buses. A worker also died from a fall October 21 at 1073 E. Water St., the C&O Row site owned by Evergreen Homebuilders.

Motion to unwrap

staff photo

Plaintiffs in the suit to prevent the city from removing Confederate statues of generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson now want Charlottesville to remove the black tarps that have covered the statues since shortly after the fatal August 12 rally—and for the city to pay hefty fines if it refuses.

Closing the door

The grocery subscription service that bought out Relay Foods last year announced November 17 that it would cease its operations, effective immediately. Door to Door Organics says refunds will be forthcoming for those who pre-ordered Thanksgiving turkeys.


“The only way you’re going to get sexism out of politics is to get more women into politics.”

Hillary Clinton in a speech at UVA during the Women’s Global Leadership Forum


Pay up

Florida man James O’Brien, an alleged League of the South member charged with concealed carrying on August 12, pleaded guilty November 20 and was sentenced to a suspended 60 days in jail and fined $500. He was arrested while breaking into his own car during the Unite the Right rally, and has since been fired from his roofing job for taking part in “extremist activities,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Switching hands

After 10 years of grooming, lodging and day care services, the owners of Best of C-VILLE Hall of Famer Pampered Pets have selected Pet Paradise Resort and Day Spa to take over operations, beginning November 16.

Dominion’s victory dance

The U.S. Forest Service approved plans for the the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline November 17, giving Dominion Energy permission to run its 42-inch natural gas pipeline through the George Washington and Monongahela national forests. Though Dominion still requires state water permits, spokesperson Aaron Ruby calls it a “key regulatory approval” in the company’s quest for final approval later this year.


By the numbers

Survey says

It costs a little bit more to gobble till you wobble this year, according to a recent survey conducted by the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

On average, it will set you back about $50.56 to feed a family of 10 adults on Thanksgiving. This is up from $44.02 last year, with the average cost of everyone’s favorite holiday meal increasing by a total of $11.44 since the federation began conducting the survey in 2003.

What’s on the menu? Turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, peas, rolls, cranberries, a vegetable tray, milk and a good ol’ slice of pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Eat up.

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