Northern Michigan Asylum

A History of The Traverse City State Hospital

Willam A. Decker, M.D. 

ISBN 978-1-933926-25-4

Hardcoverl $50.00



Northern Michigan Asylum: A History of the Traverse State Hospital is the most comprehensive history of the collection of building and grounds written to date. From the Preface to the Index, author William Decker, M.D. , former Medical Director of the Kalamazoo State Hospital and author of the award-winning Asylum for the Insane, explores little known facts about the planning, construction and operation of the array of buildings that comprise the Traverse City State Hospital.


Built in 1885, it was the third asylum to be built in Michigan. Dr. James Decker Munson was its first Medical Superintendent, filling its cottages with people from the poorhouses, attics, and hospitals who were labeled, at that time,  insane or lunatics.  Always at full or exceeding full capacity, which was 500 in 1885, the yellow brick buildings housed 2,200 souls in 1973 with rooms designed for one patient to then hold four beds dormitory style in each room. The population finally declined and leveled off to 750 following the discovery and use of neuroleptic drugs to treat various mental illnesses.


Chapters in the book include the information about the personnel including the administrative assistants, the farming operation, non-patient buildings, causes of mental illness, treatment modalities, treatment services, children and adolescent services, noteworthy events and trivia. The book is fully indexed and its sources are noted.


Over 160 historic and contemporary photos and illustrations help tell the story of the lives of those who worked and lived at the Northern Michigan Asylum in the Colony or Cottages. When the hospital closed in 1989 and came under the control of local governments, the building and grounds were in disrepair leading to the threat of losing many major historic and natural features.


In 2002, the Minervini Group led the reconstruction and development of the property into the vital and community focused collective known as The Village at the Grand Traverse Commons. It is one of the largest, historic preservation and adaptive reuse redevelopments in the country.