Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Traverse City State Hospital

 This post is photo heavy, so I hope you're ready for this!  I didn't want to weed very many out, but I also don't feel like splitting this post up into multiple, so here goes!

Back in August, Mike and I went with a few friends up to Traverse City to go on a tour of their old state hospital.  I had been up there the previous month with Mike on a vacay, and found out about the tour too late to be able to go that time around, but I made sure we got back up there ASAP to check it out (and I'm so glad I did!).  The morning of the tour, we arrived early to make sure we knew where we were going; it was pretty foggy out, which added to my excitement, and I ran around taking photos of the building before things got going.

 The Traverse City State Hospital was established in 1881, and opened in 1885.  It was built as one of many Kirkbride hospitals, which were well thought out building plans that were build in one long narrow row, and staggered to allow as much air and light into each room as possible.  Our tour guide was very knowledgeable, and even grew up around the grounds when he was a child, so he had a few stories of playing on the lawn and talking with some of the residents.  This was a working therapy hospital, meaning the residents were able to roam freely for the most part, and worked on the farm they had on the property.  It was completely self sufficient, and they even produced too much food, and would give some of it away to the locals (which didn't make the farmers too happy).  Eventually, some things changed, and laws said that they were going to have to pay the residents for the work they were doing on the farm, but of course they couldn't afford that, and they eventually closed in the 1950's.  The main building, which had been replaced in 1963, has since been converted into shops and condos, and only a few of the original buildings are standing.

 This is the one building we got to go into, which used to house some of the men.  It was in pretty rough shape, and not all from natural decay; they have a pretty bad recurring problem with vandals.  All of the buildings are set for eventual reconstruction, and this one has already been purchased to be made into a restaurant.  Although that's kind of a bummer, it's pretty neat that they are respecting the history of the place and replicating everything as closely as possible while doing so, and that they're giving the place a new life.  I'm really glad we got to go inside before it gets converted.

This was their cafeteria.
An original handrail that had been standing for years, just torn down by vandals.
Hallway with bedrooms on either side; they were designed with a window directly across from the door, and they would open the doors and windows during the day to let the light and air flow through.

These little holes in the wall leading to a tiny box-of-a-room on the other side were a mystery for a while, but they believe that they used to project movies into the cafeteria from here for the residents to enjoy.

A tunnel leading to the main tunnel.
This is a piece of some original piping that's still in tact.
This tunnel runs the entire length of the building, which I believe is over a mile long.  It was used to quickly get from one end of the hospital to the other, without interference.  For safety, the hospital was set up with the most mentally ill at the farthest ends of the wings

On the grounds is the grave of their champion dairy cow, Colantha Walker.

So, that was my tour!  I'm so happy I got to go; it was super fun and interesting!  You can find out more info on how to get hooked up with the tour here.

Have you been on a similar tour, or a tour of a historical place that you loved?  Tell me about it!


  1. Kinda' cree-pay! How sad that so many people needed a place like this...the gardening was probably the best therapy they got, plus the fact that they were able to share with others (before politics got in the way). :( The tunnel pics are really neat! And yes, the fog added a special "touch"!

    We toured the old jail in Allegan. Quite an experience! Just don't look at the art work in the bathroom! :/

    R.I.P. Colantha!

  2. Very cool Sarah! I had the chance to see this place from the outside, but never go to go in. How neat!

    I used to be a tour guide at the old jail in Allegan that Susan mentioned. If you haven't been there, I would highly recommend it! It also serves as a historical archive nowadays. They have file cabinets FULL of negatives from the late 19th century that have never been printed. Back when I worked in the darkroom, I thought of how much fun it would be to take these negatives in and turn them in to prints.

    1. Oh wow, that is so cool, you should totally get your hands on those negatives and print them! That would be so exciting to see what's on them. I'm definitely intrigued about the jail now, and will have to make a point of checking it out! Thanks!!


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