Traverse City State Hospital
Northern Michigan Asylum
|Location:||Bounded by C & O RR tracks, Division and 11th Sts., Elmwood Ave., Orange and Red Drs., Traverse City, Michigan|
|Area:||135 acres (55 ha)|
|Added to NRHP:||October 03, 1978|
The Traverse City State Hospital of Traverse City, Michigan has been variously known as the Northern Michigan Asylum and the Traverse City Regional Psychiatric Hospital. It has for many years been called the "11th Street Academy".
It is the last Kirkbride Building of Michigan's original four left in the state.
Northern Michigan Asylum was established in 1885 as the demand for a third psychiatric hospital, in addition to those established in Kalamazoo and Pontiac, began to grow. Lumber baron Perry Hannah, "the father of Traverse City," used his political influence to secure its location in his home town. Under the supervision of prominent architect Gordon W. Lloyd, the first building, known as Building 50, was constructed in Victorian-Italianate style according to the Kirkbride Plan. In 1963, the main 1885 center wing was destroyed because it was deemed a fire hazard and a new modern building was put up in its place.
Under Dr. James Decker Munson, the first superintendent from 1885 to 1924, the institution expanded. Twelve housing cottages and two infirmaries were built between 1887 and 1903 to meet the specific needs of male and female patients. All of the cottages except the northernmost are still standing. The institution became the city's largest employer and contributed to its growth. In the 1930s three large college-like buildings were constructed near the present site of the Munson Hospital parking deck and the Grand Traverse Pavilions. These buildings were demolished in 1995 because they were deemed "incompatible with reuse."
Long before the advent of drug therapy in the 1950s, Munson was a firm believer in the "beauty is therapy" philosophy. Patients were treated through kindness, comfort, pleasure, and beautiful flowers provided year-round by the asylum's own greenhouses and the variety of trees Munson planted on the grounds. Restraints, such as the straitjacket, were forbidden. Also, as part of the "work is therapy" philosophy, the asylum provided opportunities for patients to gain a sense of purpose through farming, furniture construction, fruit canning, and other trades that kept the institution fully self-sufficient. The asylum farm began in 1885 with the purchase of some milk cows and within a decade grew to include pigs, chickens, milk and meat cows, and many vegetable fields. In the 1910s-30s, the farm was home to a world champion milk cow, Traverse Colantha Walker. Her grave is at the end of the dirt trail between the farm and the asylum. The farm closed in the late 1950s, and most of the farm buildings were destroyed by the state in the mid 1970s. Two large barns (constructed in 1901 and 1932) still stand on the south side of the hospital complex. There are plans to renovate these historic structures, though nothing has been done yet.
The asylum also produced its own electricity and heat. In 1893, a shop building was built directly behind the center of building 50 (This was demolished in 1949 after being replaced by a larger power plant on the south side of the asylum grounds). The shop building generated steam to heat the asylum, and many of the steam tunnels that ran between the main building and shop still exist. However, the newer power plant, which is still standing, is to be renovated and turned into office space.
While the hospital was established for the care of the mentally ill, its use expanded during outbreaks of tuberculosis, typhoid, diphtheria, influenza, and polio. It also cared for the elderly, served as a rehab for drug addicts, and was used to train nurses. During the mid-late 1980s, the institution saw a heavy influx of drug users who sought relief from their addictions. After Munson's retirement, James Decker Munson Hospital was established in his honor on the grounds in 1926, and was operated by the state well after his death and into the 1950s. It was then replaced by Munson Medical Center in the 1950s, the largest hospital in northern Michigan and one of the largest in the state. A portrait of Dr. Munson hangs inside the main lobby of Munson Medical Center.
With the increasing success of drug therapies in the 1970s, many mental patients improved sufficiently that by the latter half of the decade the Kirkbride and the other Victorian buildings were vacant. This, in addition to changes in mental health care philosophy, the decline of institutionalization, and cuts in funding, forced the closure of the Traverse City Regional Psychiatric Hospital in 1989, with a loss of over 200 jobs to the local economy.
Starting in 2000, The Minervini Group began negotiating with the Grand Traverse Commons Redevelopment Corporation and secured an agreement to renovate the historic buildings, which were in need of a major renovation. Their efforts have led to the gradual but successful preservation and re-use of the former Building 50 as part of The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, a residential and commercial development. By 2005, the southernmost wing and Hall 20 (Phase One) were fully completed and in use. The 100,000-square-foot (9,300 m2) Mercato Phase of Building 50 was finished by fall 2008. Other buildings on the site are being renovated for new uses including an urban winery, a fair trade coffee roaster, and a brick oven bakery that opened in fall 2007. In fall 2008 the Minervini group began renovation of some of the cottages, three of which will become a hotel. Currently, apartments on the upper floors of building 50 are for sale. Munson Medical Center is currently renovating a 1893 cottage close to its parking deck into a second hospitality house. The north wing of Building 50 is to be renovated in 2009. As of June 2009, progress has taken place in the cottages slated to become a hotel.The hotel has stalled with no buyers making a commitment some of the cottages lay vacant.Work has already been done to make part of building 50 into affordable apartments. The company Jacob & associates are developing cottage 36 into apartments. The rest of building 50 and cottage 19 will be future retirement apartments.
The Owners of the Grand Traverse Commons Ray and Marsha Minervini believe the full completion of Building 50 will take $300 million and take nearly 12 years. Today they are 5 years into their project and still going strong to make the best out of the 36 acre portion of the state hospital that is now call the Grand Traverse Commons. The Commons offers residential and commercial suites ranging from $60,000-$1,000,000 in price.
See also 
- Angels in the Architecture, by Heidi Johnson — Information, history, photographs
- Traverse City State Hospital — Information, history, photographs
- Heidi Johnson — Photography
- Beauty in Ruin - The Asylum Nudes, by Geoffrey Vail Brown — Figure studies shot within the prerestored sections of the Asylum (contains nudity)
- Kirkbride Buildings — Information, history, photographs
- HDR Photography by Geoffrey V. Brown — High Dynamic Range & Infrared Architectural Images
- Rolling Centuries Historical Farm — Preservation efforts for the historic barns
- Munson Medical Center
- Grand Traverse Pavilions — An assisted living center that shares the Grand Traverse Commons and some of the former hospital cottages.
-  - Fine art photography of the asylum
- Granting The Asylum