Visiting an old asylum

"Building 50", the former Northern M...

“Building 50”, the former Northern Michigan Asylum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Northern Michigan Asylum opened in Traverse City, Michigan in 1885. At that time, physicians believed that kindness, voluntary work, and exposure to beauty were the mainstays of treatment for patients who at that time were called “insane.” Towards that end, the hospital buildings were designed in a beautiful architectural style resembling  castles, with balconies, turrets and detailed architectural embellishments. The grounds included gardens and  barns where patients assisted in growing food for the hospital and raising livestock.

The asylum, later renamed Traverse City State Hospital, closed in 1989. The buildings were abandoned and fell into disrepair, and many of the original buildings were demolished. I first saw this place years ago while vacationing near Traverse City, and saw the castle turrets peeking up through the trees. I wanted to know what this castle grounds was doing in the middle of a bustling northern Michigan tourist town, and made Best Husband drive around until we found the deserted grounds. My children sulked in the car while I walked around with my camera, dodging broken glass and taking film photo after photo of the dilapidated, but once beautiful buildings.

In recent years, a forward-thinking developer began restoring the property into a mixed-use community of shops, office space and apartments. Though much of the property has been restored, many buildings remain shuttered, awaiting restoration, and stand in sharp contrast to the fresh paint and red-roofed turrets of the restored areas. On this trip, I visited the shops in the lower level of building 50, ate lunch in the restaurant that once housed the fire department, and took more photos, of the restored and the remaining untouched areas. I’ll let the photos tell the rest of the story.

© Huffygirl 2013

Related link: New York Times tells the restoration story