Northern Michigan Asylum first opened on the western edge of Traverse City, Michigan in November, 1885, under the direction of superindentent Dr. James Decker Munson. The State government opened this hospital due to overcrowding at the Pontiac and Kalamazoo hospitals. Later, the name was changed to Traverse City State Hospital (and also Traverse City Regional Psychiatric Hospital).
The buildings of this site
Like many mental institutions from the era, it started with a single Kirkbride building (and a few related service buildings). The north wing was for female clients, and the south wing was for male clients. The grand center wing, unfortunately replaced in the 1960s, housed administration. This Kirkbride still stands and has been known for many years as Building 50. Now known as "The Village", it has recently been saved from threatened demolition (thanks to the Committee to Preserve Building 50 and other concerned citizens), and is undergoing restoration and renovation.
When the Kirkbride plan fell out of favor at the end of the 19th century, several "cottages" were constructed at the state hospital according to the philosophy of the time. The operation included extensive farm operations which were closed in the 1950s. The grave of a world champion milk cow remains on the grounds.
The institution (at the end called a regional psychiatric hospital) closed in 1989 as part of a nationwide trend in de-institutionalization of the mentally ill which had causes including changes in the overall philosophy of treatment, advances in medicine, and government budget concerns.
Current uses of the original grounds and buildings include state offices, boat storage, a police station, day care, and art center, intermediate education offices, and "hospitality house". Two large grocery stores, junior high sports fields, and the regional medical hospital are found on land that used to be part of the original asylum but was divided from the original grounds by the State of Michigan many years ago.
The grounds, now called Grand Traverse Commons, are under the supervision of a Redevelopment Corporation under the direction of the local governments. The historic resources include the original asylum building (Building 50), the cottages, the farm buildings, and the arboretum founded by Dr. James Decker Munson. Significant historic and natural attractions on the grounds were until recently threatened with demolition or drastic alteration.
More information concerning the Grand Traverse Commons (Traverse City State Hospital) and the redevelopment effort can be found at TraverseCityStateHospital.com.
Also see "The Minervini Group" to find out about the future of this historic site.
The postcards for Northern Michigan Asylum / Traverse City State
Hospital are found on a separate page.
Other Photos and Images: