Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Transformation of the Northern Michigan Asylum



Two summers ago I stopped at Traverse City, Michigan's Grand Traverse Commons to see how this sweeping complex was being transformed. Built in 1885 the Northern Michigan Asylum operated as a psychiatric hospital treating the mentally needy for decades. Part of the then cutting edge therapy was introducing patients to farming and livestock production. This experiment gained critical acclaim in professional circles for the advancement in patients' self esteem and self-worth. After many years of use the grounds fell into disrepair as the state built more modern facilities in other cities. In 2000, a group of private investors bought sections of the run down property to transform it into condos, restaurants, and shops - today known as the Village at Grand Traverse Commons. In 2007 portions of the facility had been restored while other building wings remained untouched.


Check out the gate's iron works located in the rear of the main building complex. Any symbolist will tell you that the mirrored fleur-de-lis image represents the struggle of the Trinity with those of evil forces - somehow appropriate to the battle within the mind. Know that.