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Traverse City State Hospital

Exterior Photographs



Black & White Photographs




  The Northern 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 needs. 

The 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.   






The 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          



The Village at Grand Traverse Commons

(Redevelopment of Traverse City State Hospital)









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