Traverse City’s Abandoned Asylum

Moonlight behind spooky trees in the park tonight


Abandoned (haunted?) asylum buildings in the Grand Traverse Commons




Spooky photos aside, the Traverse City State Hospital / Northern Michigan Asylum / Traverse City Regional Psychiatric Hospital does not have a sordid past, and the place feels much more deserted than haunted. The facility was established in 1885 in response to demand. Its first superintendent, Dr. James Decker Munson, believed in beauty as therapy as well as providing work opportunities so that patients could feel useful. Patients seem to have been treated well (they didn’t use restraints, including straitjackets), and the facility was largely self-sufficient. Eventually closing in 1989, the grounds and buildings are being redeveloped into beautiful condos/apartments, underground shopping (very swanky, I might add), and restaurants.

Redeveloped grounds

We had planned to walk the trails that surround The Commons, but ended up enjoying the Halloween-y setting of the abandoned buildings and overcast, darkening day instead. If you’re looking for an interesting stroll in Traverse City, I recommend the sprawling grounds at the Commons, especially if you want to walk with ghosts.

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17 thoughts on “Traverse City’s Abandoned Asylum

  1. I remember seeing this asylum when we drove to the hospital (nursing home) where Barry’s grandpa lived. Old abandoned buildings like these are kinda haunting, or at least so intriguing. You imagine what went on there…

    • Normally I would have a very creepy vibe from a place like that (I’ve read One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest…), but I like to imagine an idyllic setting that would make many of us proud today instead of ashamed at the things we didn’t know.

    • Thank you. I have a Nikon D5100 and I edit in Lightroom, but the only significant changes I made were to make sure each photo had a true black and a true white so that the photo covered the whole “spectrum.” Oh, and I added a grainy effect just for fun 😉

  2. Your spooky black and whites remind me of movies I’ve seen, or seen advertised, in which mostly unpleasant things happen. Switching to color, however, gives an entirely different feel. All of them are great pictures.

    • I loved the difference. I had them all set to go in color and then decided converting to B&W. I’m glad I did. In fairness though, the building shown in color has been complete renovated, and it looks fresh and new. The other buildings are definitely spookier, even in color 😉

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  5. I was up in Northport a couple years ago for a few weeks and explored this place too…thought it would have been totally redone by now, they were working on it at that time (2010)…yes it can feel really spooky..I kept thinking about all the people that had been housed there. Great photos!

    • Thank you! I’m fairly impressed at how “modern” the treatment conditions were. I think if I had to be institutionalized back then, I would have chosen here. And they are still working on improvements, slowly but surely. I don’t know if they have plans to redo the entire place or not.

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