November 23, 2019
CPSA sponsored a tour of Thomas Blackburn properties and other historic buildings in the Staunton area. Blackburn, who had been a builder at UVA, designed the Western State Asylum in the 1830s. One of its buildings has been renovated as a boutique hotel, The Blackburn Inn, where members stayed. Richmond developer Robin Miller spoke to the group about other plans under development for the Western State grounds and buildings, and the role of Virginia tax credits to ensure preservation and restoration.
Richmond architect Bryan Green, author of In Jefferson’s Shadow: The Architecture of Thomas R. Blackburn told the story of Blackburn moving from builder to architect. The group toured the hotel to see many of the features retained in its renovation.
Interestingly, at the time of the construction in the 1830s, the belief was that persons with mental illness would benefit from beautiful surroundings where they could recover and thus, the buildings and grounds were designed in that model.
In addition, thanks to Staunton architects and preservationists, Bill and Kathy Frazier, and the hospitality of owners, the CPSA group visited two private homes: Stuart House, a wing of which was designed by Thomas Blackburn, and Waverly Hill, designed by William Bottomley.