New Virginia hotel once served as insane asylum, prison

The property formerly housed the Western State Hospital insane asylum. Photos courtesy Blackburn Inn.

STAUNTON, Va. — Robin Miller and Dan Gecker have redeveloped their fair share of old buildings.

But when the seasoned local- development duo decided to branch outside of Richmond to restore and convert a long-abandoned insane asylum and prison in Staunton, their idea turned into a project that’s been more than 10 years in the making.

“It was much more complicated than, say, a warehouse in Shockoe Bottom,” Miller said.

The 12-year undertaking finally culminated last month with the opening of the Blackburn Inn, a 49-room hotel in the former Western State Hospital.

And they’re not done yet, as the 33,000-square-foot 19th-century property is the linchpin in Miller and Gecker’s larger plan for the surrounding 80-acre campus.

While planning the hotel, they’ve added condos, apartments and restored houses to create the neighboring Villages at Staunton. They also have a plan to expand the Blackburn by converting two adjacent buildings that will add about 50 guest rooms.

Miller said they always knew the Blackburn project was going to take a long time.

He said hotel discussions began about 12 years ago but he didn’t really “get serious about it” until seven years ago. Six of those years were spent on gaining plan approvals.

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