Traverse City State HospitalIt’s the late 19th century, and you are living with a serious mental disability. More than likely your family has locked you in the attic and sent you meals under the door.

If you were fortunate enough to live in Michigan, your family may have heard that you will be allowed to go to the new Traverse City Asylum. Here, for the first time anywhere in the world, you are treated as a person, in what seems like almost luxurious surroundings. You receive three meals a day, a room to sleep in, and meaningful work to perform.

The buildings are designed to provide sunlight and beauty, the grounds are well tended, and the staff is dedicated to the guests.

These “Kirkbride Asylums” are the state of the art, in actual mental health care, so good, that many patients refused to leave, even if able to.

Fast forward 75-100 years, we are no longer interested in care. Any facility such as this makes no money, and therefore is useless to current political leaders and the pharmaceutical companies that own them. First, in deference to these companies the patients are drugged into submission. After a time, even this is too expensive so the facilities are closed, and the disabled are literally kicked out the front door, with maybe a good luck wish.

The Traverse City State Hospital was closed in 1989. The building and grounds quickly fell into disrepair, due to time and vandalism.

In recent years the community and real estate developers have come up with a plan to restore this place. Now, if only caring for people who need help was still a valuable ideal.

Ann and I recently enjoyed a guided tour of some of the building and grounds, both restored and not. Here are a few pictures.