& White Photographs
Michigan Asylum (now the Traverse City State Hospital) was organized in
1881. It opened on November 30, 1885, with forty-three residents. Dr. J.
D. Munson was the facility's superintendent for its first thirty-nine
years. The original buildings served five hundred residents. By 1959 the
facility had 1.4 million square feet of floor space and housed 2,956
residents. The institution's farms and its processing and manufacturing
facilities covered over a thousand acres and made it nearly
self-sufficient. Between 1885 and 1985 it served over fifty thousand
residents. After 1960, with advances in treatment and community
services, the need for in-patient facilities declined. In 1985 one
hundred and fifty beds served the area's acute and intensive psychiatric
Traverse City State Hospital is a complex comprised of sixty buildings
located on a hilly 480 acre tract of land at the southwestern perimeter
of Traverse City. A majority of contributing structures feature buff or
golden brown brick execution with stone, cement, or wood trim. Located
at the midpoint of the complex, the imposing facades of the key
structure, Building Fifty, dominate the hospital landscape. The enormous
sprawling structure contains a total area of 386,740 square feet and
rises from a stone foundation to a height of three stories.
Architectural details such as bracketed eaves lines, gabled dormers, and
pointed spires of the towers reflect the building's Victorian ambience.
Much of the original interior remains intact.
Traverse City State Hospital is significant as one of the state's best
surviving examples of the Kirkbride approach to mental health. The
original asylum building, designed by Gordon W. Lloyd of Detroit in
1885, documents the approach to psychiatry through architecture which
was developed by Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride. Kirkbride theorized that
patients who were allowed to live in beautiful and sanitary conditions
could be cured at a higher rate. E. H. VanDeusen furnished the renown
landscape plans. By 1910 the institution contained fourteen cottages,
the north and south infirmaries, and a series of additions to the
original central structure. Local architect C. M. Prall designed many of
these buildings. Although the hospital is closed, its attractive grounds
are well maintained.
Michigan State Historic Preservation Office
Village at Grand Traverse Commons
of Traverse City State Hospital)