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St. Alban’s sits beside what is RU West.

Katherine Wilk
kwilk@radford.edu

On a hill overlooking the New River, a couple of miles from Radford University, are some buildings that used to house troubled minds. Now the abandoned dormitories and offices that used to be the Saint Alban’s psychiatric center house rumors and graffiti. The patients are gone but a fascination with the place remains.

Radford University students inside the Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Department are leading interested parties on tours of what some say is a haunted spot. They’re hoping to stop the destruction caused by those interested in the building’s past while helping new owner, Tim Gregory finance restorations.

Owner, Tim Gregory talks with a nurse from the facility.

The group is eager to remain involved in the project that steals their Saturday mornings, giving enthusiastic visitors a tour of what some describe as the Pulaski haunt. They’ve memorized the history, reciting dates and plans to any ready to listen. And above all, they see Gregory as nothing more than amazing.

Gregory was once a patient at the hospital when he was 13 years old for treatment of his Asperger’s syndrome. He described himself as fortunate and “spoiled rotten” during his stay at the hospital. He has fond memories of the facility and has big plans to preserve the history as well as the buildings.

“Me and my wife got a chance to look at the building and I knew we needed to get it because they wanted to tear it down so I couldn’t let that happen,” Gregory said. “So it’s not exactly like buying the home place but it’s as close as you can get.”

He purchased the property for $500,000 back in 2008 from an auction of the Radford University Real Estate Foundation. The sale also included the nearby King House, which was the family home of Dr. J. C. King after his family moved out of the center.

St. Alban’s was once a boy’s school prior to the opening of the King Center.

Gregory hopes to turn the property into a conference center with 80 guest rooms, several classes devoted to healing, lectures, motivational speakers and offices for those involved in holistic medicine. He anticipates drawing visitors in with the building’s rich history.

St. Albans was originally opened between 1892 and 1911 as the St. Albans boy’s school. Five years later the hospital opened its doors in 1916 with the help of Dr. J.C. King.

Patients described it as a peaceful place, where they were healed holistically and without medication. Gregory often warns those seeking the ghosts and spirits they’ve heard rumors about to book a tour and not break into St. Alban’s. He occasionally haunts the buildings himself, late at night, protecting his one-time home from vandals and nosey students.

Vandals have destroyed many parts of the building.

Gregory often catches students creeping into the abandoned building and on occasion has restrained trespassers until the authorities could arrive. Gregory jokes now about the fear he caused one young man who was so frightened by Gregory’s appearance in a dark room, long beard and all, that the young man urinated himself.

Catching those who break in is just a hobby but the big picture is a restoration. And that restoration is his dream. The vandals have caused unbelievable damage. After the building sat abandoned for 6 years it undoubtedly needs a great deal of restoration.

“[We’re] having these tours so people know what we’re doing out here,” Gregory said.  “Because they go back and tell their friends that we’re actually fixing it up, it’s not falling down. That’s the most important steps we’re taking. It’s just getting information out to lighten the place up.”

During the time when Radford University owned the property, it was left unused and asking for trouble. RU once made use of the property allowing art students to graffiti and damage parts of the building for displays. It still holds the remaining projects inside many of the rooms, however many tour guides point out the destruction is hard to separate from the vandalism that occurred afterwards.

“It’s such a historical building and I don’t think people realize that, because I didn’t realize that until I started getting involved with it,” CEO Bobbie Wolfe said. “When you damage it, it just costs more money for Tim to put back into the building and it’s just not a good thing to do.”

A nurse that once worked at St. Alban’s took a tour through the building, correcting tour guides when appropriate.

Through the crude spray paint, holes in the walls, broken staircases, uneven floors, shattered windows and overgrown landscapes tour guides, visitors and volunteers see Gregory’s dream clearly. The creeping vines even seek solace inside the walls of Saint Alban’s.

Grand staircases, square footage and a maze of rooms keep their eye on the light at the end of the tunnel.

Hidden Treasures:
St. Alban’s is full of abandoned treasures. Several columns support the roof and balconies of the buildings. During renovations they were covered and protected with Styrofoam keeping many of them in perfect condition today. Only a handful have been lost to age.

Du ring the transformations over the years a set of skylights were also covered up in the main sitting room in one of the buildings. Drop ceilings were installed in most of the buildings, lowering many ceiling heights and covering up the buildings treasures.

A grand staircase inside the building is still in decent shape and one of the many treasures inside St. Albans.

The Cage:
What most would assume is a rooftop patio is what tour guides refer to as “The Cage.” An area atop on of the buildings of Saint Alban’s was caged off to allow patients in the closed wards their daily outdoor time without fear of endangerment.

 

Gregory plans to remove the cage and replace the broken tile and add planters, giving future visitors a place to drink coffee during the mornings.

Alcohol Unit:
Saint Alban’s was constantly referred to as “a place of healing” for those that needed it. It wasn’t a stranger to many celebrities; Johnny Cash was rumored to have booked a room in Saint Alban’s alcohol unit but later refused his stay.

The unit had it’s own personal entrance behind the facility where according to nurses many limousines would drop off patients.

Patients:

One patient of Saint Alban’s who was under the direct care of Dr. King found herself at odds with the hospital’s founder. She found herself at the center for anorexia and obsessive compulsive disorder. Before breakfast each day the girl would have her room in order and King would mess it up while she ate. He supposedly did it to keep her on her toes and encourage her to push her anger outside her body.

The Cage sits atop one of the buildings of St. Albans and was used to give closed-ward patience outdoor time.

Tim’s Story:
Gregory explained to the tourists his appreciation for Dr. King’s facility. He would act up when he learned of his release. The youngest patient, Gregory would pretend to run away from the grounds of St. Albans, however, he would take his time and practically walk just to ensure he would be caught.

After hearing of his release on another occasion, Gregory ran screaming and slammed his head into a hallway vending machine, knocking himself out. His determination to stay within the walls of Saint Alban’s is comical to him now.

Gregory’s fascination never falters. As the class takes tourists through, Gregory delves into the building, memory first and guides guests through the web of hallways. His paths almost always intersect the students and he won’t hesitate to inform visitors of his future plans for each room of the center.

Visitors:
Curious minds aren’t the only ones seeking the tours. Nurses and other workers from Saint Alban’s past have booked tours with Tim and his guides. One accompanied a tour and did not hesitate to point out flaws in the building’s history.

A small child explores the building during a tour.

One nurse had tears in her eyes as she noticed the overwhelming amount of destruction within the building.

The rush of a ghost story will still draw in visitors. One couple come to St. Alban’s to record their findings as amateur ghost hunters, wande ring from the set path of the tour and taking in every inch of the building.

 

They aren’t the only one looking for ghosts. A small child clung to an Ipod running a ghost finder App into the electroshock therapy room.

Gregory sees a different side of the paranormal aspect of Saint Alban’s.

“Do I believe there’s a lot of spirits in Saint Alban’s? Yeah, I do.” Gregory said.  “Do I belive there’s monsters—reach-out-and-get-you kind of things going on? No, I don’t go there too much. But I do believe there’s a lot of spirits here… It was a place of healing for a long, long time. If I went to the other side, I’d probably want to go to a place like this and hang out too.”

A small child uses an iPod App to search the building for ghosts.

Electroshock Therapy:
One technique that was used on many patients during the operation of Saint Alban’s was electroshock therapy. Gregory received 21 shock treatments over the course of his stay. The treatment was said to help Gregory’s condition by inducing grand-mal seizures that changed the way his brain processed functions.

Electroshock therapy had been given a bad rap after the film “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” forced unnecessary shock treatments on patients, one nurse said as she explained the technique and reasons behind the treatment at Saint Albans.

The center will be renamed the St. Albans Center for Research and Enlightenment. As those who ventured into the buildings returned from their journey most felt the need to step in and get involved.

“It’s such a historical building and people don’t realize that—I didn’t until I started getting involved,” said CEO Bobbie Wolfe.

After the university failed to do anything with the building, students have stepped in and hope to make St. Albans a vital part of the community once again. They encourage others to help make sure the building is appreciated and preserved, taking the history to heart.

Tourgoers find themselves in the electroshock therapy room.

That’s exactly what this project is doing as it pulls at the heartstrings of the community.

“[A maintenance man who worked on the property for 30 years] cried so much… because they had to leave the building,” Gregory said. “And if it meant that much to the people who worked there you can imagine what it meant to people who came here to heal. And I get stories everywhere you go if you bring up Saint Albans—whether it’s WalMart, Lowes, wherever—everybody’s got a story—a good story about Saint Alban’s.”

Get involved:

Friends of Saint Albans on Facebook

Ticket information

 

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Katherine Wilk

kwilk@radford.edu

On a hill overlooking the New River, a couple of miles from Radford University, are some buildings that used to house troubled minds. Now the abandoned dormitories and offices that used to be the Saint Alban’s psychiatric center house rumors and graffiti. The patients are gone but fascination with the place remains.

Radford University students inside the Recreation, Parks and Tourism department are leading interested parties on tours of what some say is a haunted spot. They’re hoping to stop the destruction caused by those interested in the building’s past while helping new owner, Tim Gregory finance restorations.

The group is eager to remain involved in the project that steals their Saturday mornings, giving enthusiastic visitors a tour of what some describe as the Pulaski haunt. They’ve memorized the history, reciting dates and plans to any ready to listen. And above all they see Gregory as nothing more than amazing.

Gregory was once a patient at the hospital when he was 13 years old for treatment of his Asberger’s syndrome. He described himself as fortunate and “spoiled rotten” during his stay at the hospital. He has fond memories of the facility and has big plans to preserve the history as well as the buildings.

“Me and my wife got a chance to look at the building and I knew we needed to get it because they wanted to tear it down, so I couldn’t let that happen,” Gregory said. “So it’s not exactly like buying the home place but it’s as close as you can get.”

He purchased the property for $500,000 back in 2008 from an auction of the Radford University Real Estate Foundation. The sale also included the nearby King House, which was the family home of Dr. J. C. King after his family moved out of the center.

Gregory hopes to turn the property into a conference center with 80 guest rooms, several classes devoted to healing, lectures, motivational speakers and offices for those involved in holistic medicine. He anticipates drawing visitors in with the buildings rich history.

St. Albans was originally opened between 1892 and 1911 as the St. Albans boy’s school. Five years later the hospital opened its doors in 1916 with the help of Dr. J.C. King.

Patients described it as a peaceful place, where they were healed holistically and without medication. Gregory often warns those seeking the ghosts and spirits they’ve heard rumors about to book a tour and not break into St. Alban’s. He occasionally haunts the buildings himself, late at night, protecting his one-time home from vandals and nosey students.

Gregory often catches students creeping into the abandoned building and on occasion has restrained trespassers until the authorities could arrive. Gregory jokes now about the fear he caused one young man who was so frightened by Gregory’s appearance in a dark room, long beard and all, that the young man urinated himself.

Catching those who break in is just a hobby but the big picture is a restoration. And that restoration is his dream. The vandals have caused unbelievable damage. After the building sat abandoned for 6 years it undoubtedly needs a great deal of restoration.

“[Were] having these tours so people know what were doing out here,” Gregory said.  “Because they go back and tell their friends that we’re actually fixing it up, it’s not falling down. That’s the most important steps we’re taking. It’s just getting information out to lighten the place up.”

During the time when Radford University owned the property it was left unused and asking for trouble. RU once made use of the property allowing art students to graffiti and damage parts of the building for displays. It still holds the remaining projects inside many of the rooms, however many tour guides point out the destruction is hard to separate from the vandalism that occurred afterwards.

“It’s such a historical building and I don’t think people realize that, because I didn’t realize that until I started getting involved with it,” CEO Bobbie Wolfe said. “When you damage it, it just costs more money for Tim to put back into the building and it’s just not a good thing to do.”

Through the crude spray paint, holes in the walls, broken staircases, uneven floors, shattered windows and overgrown landscapes tour guides, visitors and volunteers see Gregory’s dream clearly. The creeping vines even seek solace inside the walls of Saint Alban’s.

Grand staircases, square footage and a maze of rooms keep their eye on the light at the end of the tunnel.

Hidden Treasures:

St. Alban’s is full of abandoned treasures. Several columns support the roof and balconies of the buildings. During renovations they were covered and protected with Styrofoam keeping many of them in perfect condition today. Only a handful have been lost to age.

During the transformations over the years a set of skylights were also covered up in the main sitting room in one of the buildings. Drop ceilings were installed in most of the buildings, lowering many ceiling heights and covering up the buildings treasures.

The Cage:

What most would assume is a rooftop patio is what tour guides refer to as “The Cage.” An area atop on of the buildings of Saint Alban’s was caged off to allow patients in the closed wards their daily outdoor time without fear of endangerment.

Gregory plans to remove the cage and replace the broken tile and add planters, giving future visitors a place to drink coffee during the mornings.

Alcohol Unit:

Saint Alban’s was constantly referred to as “a place of healing” for those that needed it. It wasn’t a stranger to many celebrities; Johnny Cash was rumored to have booked a room in Saint Alban’s alcohol unit but later refused his stay.

The unit had it’s own personal entrance behind the facility where according to nurses many limousines would drop off patients.

Patients:

One patient of Saint Alban’s who was under the direct care of Dr. King found herself at odds with the hospital’s founder. She found herself at the center for anorexia and obsessive compulsive disorder. Before breakfast each day the girl would have her room in order and King would mess it up while she ate. He supposedly did it to keep her on her toes and encourage her to push her anger outside her body.

Tim’s Story:

Gregory explained to the tourists his appreciation for Dr. King’s facility. He would act up when he learned of his release. The youngest patient, Gregory would pretend to run away from the grounds of St. Albans, however he would take his time and practically walk just to ensure he would be caught.

After hearing of his release on another occasion, Gregory ran screaming and slammed his head into a hallway vending machine, knocking himself out. His determination to stay within the walls of Saint Alban’s is comical to him now.

Gregory’s fascination never falters. As the class takes tourists through, Gregory delves into the building, memory first and guides guests through the web of hallways. His paths almost always intersect the students and he won’t hesitate to inform visitors of his future plans for each room of the center.

Visitors:

Curious minds aren’t the only ones seeking the tours. Nurses and other workers from Saint Alban’s past have booked tours with Tim and his guides. One accompanied a tour and did not hesitate to point out flaws in the building’s history.

One nurse had tears in her eyes as she noticed the overwhelming amount of destruction within the building.

The rush of a ghost story will still draw in visitors. One couple come to St. Alban’s to record their findings as amateur ghost hunters, wandering from the set path of the tour and taking in every inch of the building.

They aren’t the only one looking for ghosts. A small child clung to an Ipod running a ghost finder App into the electroshock therapy room.

Gregory sees a different side of the paranormal aspect of Saint Alban’s.

“Do I believe there’s a lot of spirits in Saint Alban’s? Yeah, I do.” Gregory said.  “Do I belive there’s monsters—reach-out-and-get-you kind of things going on? No, I don’t go there too much. But I do believe there’s a lot of spirits here… It was a place of healing for a long, long time. If I went to the other side, I’d probably want to go to a place like this and hang out too.”

Electroshock Therapy:

One technique that was used on many patients during the operation of Saint Alban’s was electroshock therapy. Gregory received 21 shock treatments over the course of his stay. The treatment was said to help Gregory’s condition by inducing grand-mal seizures that changed the way his brain processed functions.

Electroshock therapy had been given a bad rap after the film “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” forced unnecessary shock treatments on patients, one nurse said as she explained the technique and reasons behind the treatment at Saint Albans.

The center will be renamed the St. Albans Center for Research and Enlightenment. As those who ventured into the buildings returned from their journey most felt the need to step in and get involved.

“It’s such a historical building and people don’t realize that—I didn’t until I started getting involved,” said CEO Bobbie Wolfe.

After the university failed to do anything with the building, students have stepped in and hope to make St. Albans a vital part of the community once again. They encourage others to help make sure the building is appreciated and preserved, taking the history to heart.

That’s exactly what this project is doing as it pulls at the heartstrings of the community.

“[A maintenance man who worked on the property for 30 years] cried so much… because they had to leave the building,” Gregory said. “And if it meant that much to the people who worked there you can imagine what it meant to people who came here to heal. And I get stories everywhere you go if you bring up Saint Albans—whether it’s WalMart, Lowes, wherever—everybody’s got a story—a good story about Saint Alban’s.”

About Me:


Kate Wilk is a Journalism major attending Radford University. She currently works for two Student Media organizations: Managing Editor for The Tartan, RU's student newspaper and Marketing Manager for Whim, RU's online magazine.

August 2017
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What I’m Working On:

Election: Coverage of Virginia's 9th District Congressional Election--Campaign profiles, Election Day Coverage, Interviews with voters

St. Alban's: Psychiatric Center is on path to rebirth. Interview with owner/patient Tim Gregory, Photography, Interviews with students participating in ghost tours

Animal Adoptions/Abandonment: Radford's student population cares for pets, what to know, resources and opinions

Best Pizza Around: Local food hot spots get analyzed by students at RU. Resources for late night cravings, delivery information, menus, best deals

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