When Western Center opened in 1962 in Canonsburg, at the former site of a home for delinquent youth, the state cared for more than 13,000 mentally challenged residents in state institutions. Western Center is located at the site of the former Pennsylvania Reform School at Morganza, a facility for delinquent youths in Washington County. The facility had 37 buildings on 304 acres of land.
Western Center was formally known as Western State School and Hospital, Pennsylvania Reform School, and The House of Refuge with facility roots reaching back to 1854. The beautiful campus served as a serene setting in Pennsylvania’s history of treatment for the mentally challenged although horrid accounts exist of experimental drug therapy, isolation, neglect, rape and dehumanizing treatment to some residents and faculty throughout the years. Western Center, located in Washington County within the Southpointe business park, stopped admitting patients in 1992 and finally closed in 2000. Most of the buildings face eminent demolition while the historic Administration Building may be salvage and restored to function as a future cultural center. The land under redevelopment, bought for $2M, will serve as one of the first lifestyle centers in PA which will feature a complex of office, shopping, living, and recreational facilities in one centralized area.
The expansive park-like campus hosts the 20 remaining buildings in various states of decay and disrepair. The seven-story dormitory building looms over the site as the dominant feature. On the opposite end of the campus, a tall green tower tops the brick Administration Building – used as a filming location for the movie “The Silence of the Lambs” in 1991 featuring Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster. Thirty-three flat aluminum gravestones mark the graves of children in the Morganza Cemetery, each echoing the same epitaph “Rest In Peace”.
Information from the Asylum Projects Website