Traverse City Asylum

Spires rise eerily out of a deep, dense wood. As the car creeps closer and closer to the institution and its outbuildings, a strange sense of dread, of foreboding and sadness seem to crawl stealthily over everyone. The former Traverse City State Hospital, an asylum for a variety of mental illnesses, may no longer serve its original purpose, but the shadow of its past lingers still. 

Building 50 and Grand Traverse Commons, located in  Traverse City, is now a lively shop and restaurant filled destination, farmer’s markets, bakeries, wine bars and art deck the halls that used to house nurses and and patients, drug store rooms and treatment facilities. Its walls are whitewashed and bright, the hallways airy and cheerful. Speciality soap shops and Michigan made delicacies rub shoulders with hip coffee shops and a store that sells couture for dogs. 

As lovely as the renovation of the building is, one is somehow reminded constantly of the past. It is more than just the age of the bricks surrounding you, it is also in a feeling that sticks close from the moment you enter. It is not unlike the impression one gets when walking through Antwerp, the stately canal houses standing proudly, with a more modern dwelling tucked between every so often. It is the collision of the past and the present, because those modern houses only exist because of the tragedy of bombs falling in WWII. This same sadness and history is alive and well in Building 50. 

Many of the outbuildings have not yet been renovated and painted over yet. They stand, crumbling and seemingly forgotten on the property, haunted by the memories of the souls who  called the asylum home. The eerie caged-in front porches echo with long gone and forgotten rocking chairs and the sighs of those who had been left there, many forgotten themselves. 

Although I write of a feeling of despair, Grand Traverse Commons always seems to pull me back again. I think because it is such a beautiful old edifice, and that it has undergone such change— is inspiring. A new beginning for a battered and depressing place. A new start for the future, that invites us to lay the despair of the past to rest, and begin again. 

Want a copy of my book set in this creepy, spooky place? 

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