Michigan Visit: A New Baby and a New Book

My busy self had to take a week off and visit my new grandson in Michigan and see how new Mama and Daddy were faring. It was my first born’s first born, so I was thrilled to finally get a chance to hold him in my arms. Meet Carter Jeffery Schultz:

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What a warm cuddle butt he is. With his little round head and bottom and wiry arms and legs, I had to nickname him Mr. Peanut. There is nothing that touches a grandmother’s heart quite like holding a newborn grandchild.

My favorite picture of father and son.

My favorite picture of father and son.

With Daddy working weird hours, Mama and me got to do a little sightseeing. We had lunch at Fireflies on the water watching the canoers paddle by and baby was such a good child. It was his first excursion to a restaurant and did very well. Helped Mama’s confidence to get him out and about, also. She’s such a good little mama.

Another day, when Daddy was home, we went to a wine tasting at a place they now call The Commons. This was my kind of place.

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It’s a historic 1884 hospital complex now a sprawling shopping & dining spot with arboretum & hiking.

The Traverse City State Hospital of Traverse CityMichigan has been variously known as the Northern Michigan Asylum and the Traverse City Regional Psychiatric Hospital. It is the last Kirkbride Building of Michigan’s original four left in the state. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and designated a Michigan State Historic Site in 1985. It was a deary day with sprinkling rain when we went which lent a more mysterious feel to the place…almost haunting.

One little tid-bit I learned while visiting is that roughly 80% of the women there from the 1930s-60s were menopausal or post-meopausal and thier husbands had mistresses younger than them…hmmm.

Northern Michigan Asylum was established in 1881 as the demand for a third psychiatric hospital, in addition to those established in Kalamazoo and Pontiac, began to grow. Lumber baronPerry Hannah, “the father of Traverse City,” used his political influence to secure its location in his home town under the supervision of prominent architect Gordon W. Lloyd, the first building, known as Building 50, was constructed in VictorianItalianate style according to the Kirkbride Plan. The hospital opened in 1885 with 43 residents.

Arial View of the complex

Arial View of the complex

Under Dr. James Decker Munson, the first superintendent from 1885 to 1924, the institution expanded. Twelve housing cottages and two infirmaries were built between 1887 and 1903 to meet the specific needs of male and female patients. The institution became the city’s largest employer and contributed to its growth. In the 1930s three large college-like buildings were constructed near the present site of the Munson Hospital parking deck and the Grand Traverse Pavilions.

Long before the advent of drug therapy in the 1950s, Munson was a firm believer in the “beauty is therapy” philosophy. Patients were treated through kindnesscomfort, and pleasure, and beautiful flowers provided year-round by the asylum’s own greenhouses and the variety of trees Munson planted on the grounds. Restraints, such as the straitjacket, were forbidden. Also, as part of the “work is therapy” philosophy, the asylum provided opportunities for patients to gain a sense of purpose through farming, furniture construction, fruit canning, and other trades that kept the institution fully self-sufficient. The asylum farm began in 1885 with the purchase of some milk cows and within a decade grew to include pigs, chickens, milk and meat cows, and many vegetable fields. In the 1910s-30s, the farm was home to a world champion milk cow, Traverse Colantha Walker. Her grave is at the end of the dirt trail between the farm and the asylum.

While the hospital was established for the care of the mentally ill, its use expanded during outbreaks of tuberculosistyphoiddiphtheriainfluenza, and polio. It also cared for the elderly, served as a rehab for drug addicts, and was used to train nurses. Kinda creepy, huh?

I was most interested in the tunnels that honeycomb the undergrounds. These were used during winter months when there was eight to twelve feet of snow on the ground so the patients could wander around and the caretakers could get from one building to another without freezing to death. (BTW…they are filled with spiders.)

tunnels-at-the-commons

The inside of the buildings are room after room of quiant upscale boutiques, coffee shops, and eateries. The upstairs are condos where people live year ’round or summer over. It was both fun and interesting on many levels. Much nicer than the tunnels, but I don’t know that I could live there.

Inside The Commons

Inside The Commons

There was a wonderful restaurant inside, called Stella’s, and we had a lovely dinner of veal sweetbreads, thinly sliced fried pig ears, fried artichokes and a cheese tray for starters. That was followed by entrees of wild boar, lamb and scallops and topped off by a decadent chocolate desert with a crispy cookie and creamy mousse with whipped cream and shaved chocolate…oh yes, we did have another delicious bottle of Cab-Sav. A nice glass of Taylor Fladgate port rounded off the meal.

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While touring the buildings and the grounds my mind wandered back to the 30s-50s when patients lived and worked there. As any good author, by the time I left I already had the makings of another book in my head.

There is already so much in my head, I don’t know if this lifetime will grant me what is necessary to finish such a piece, but it’s worth a try.

Right now, I’m focused on marketing my zany little Florida regional crime novel with Richard and Brandi which is on pre-order HERE with the paperback available HERE.

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Perhaps Richard and Brandi can go back with me to Traverse City and use those tunnels to uncover some heinous crime that occurred there. I’d jump at the chance to revisit for more research.

42 thoughts on “Michigan Visit: A New Baby and a New Book

  1. Love that sweet little cuddle butt. And thanks for the tour. I didn’t miss the part about “One little tid-bit” either. Made me chuckle. 🙂

    Nothing like being a grand-parent: NaNa, Gramsy, Grandma? What will you call yourself, Susan?

  2. Welcome to your sweet grandchild, and congrats to mom and dad. Glad you all took that outing.
    Your history of the mental asylum also drew my interest. It’s obvious that these people knew a thing or two about mental illness:
    “Long before the advent of drug therapy in the 1950s, Munson was a firm believer in the “beauty is therapy” philosophy. Patients were treated through kindness, comfort, and pleasure, and beautiful flowers provided year-round by the asylum’s own greenhouses and the variety of trees Munson planted on the grounds. Restraints, such as the straitjacket, were forbidden. Also, as part of the “work is therapy” philosophy, the asylum provided opportunities for patients to gain a sense of purpose through farming, furniture construction, fruit canning, and other trades that kept the institution fully self-sufficient.”
    Thank you, SK, and my best wishes to you and your family.

  3. Congrats on your new grandson and that you got to make the visit.

    It’s amazing how much tunnels were used once upon a time. In downtown Sacramento, there are tunnels throughout the downtown area that were constructed decades ago and used to travel between State government buildings. I have no idea why. They aren’t used much anymore and are generally now behind locked doors. Plus, after floods in the 1860s, the entire area of what was then downtown Sacramento was raised one floor. Every building was raised and then the streets were filled in with dirt. Leaving the area under the buildings as a vast network of tunnels. Most of those are now also sealed off and inaccessible, or have been destroyed. But there are still some that you can walk through and there remains some historical elements from all those years ago. I toured some of them a couple of years ago and, like you, wondered what stories they might tell.

    • The whole place was just fascinating to me. I have worked in and toured many facilities that were built in or after the 1960s….but never one this old and so beautiful. I believe the people who establshed this place were sincere about their efforts to help people recover. That speaks volumes. And the tunnels…oh my, if they could talk!

  4. Congratulations on the new grandson! They are sweet aren’t they? Interesting sightseeing tour you had too! Would love to pre-order the book but couldn’t get the links to work. I’m sure it’s just a glitch!
    ~Elle

  5. Congrats on the adorable grandson and the book, Susan! And I love about the asylum. I have a connection with the Kalamazoo asylum and not just because I’m from Kalamazoo–or as a child danced there and the men tried to grab our legs–but because in my genealogy research I found a relative there and searched through some documents and got a little more familiar with the way things were there. Also, my great-great-grandfather built the water tower at the hospital and it’s still there, a historical monument. I had NO IDEA there was one in Traverse City (which is where my cousin lives). They’ve done something kind of cool with their asylum!

    • They have and I’m really glad for the rennovation that it didn’t just fall to ruin. The shops are really nice. I don’t know what their overhead is, but I hope it’s not so much they can’t stay in business. They get lots of tourists in Traverse City and it’s defintely a foodie town. Tons of nice restaurants.

  6. What a beautiful little boy! It sounds like he’s well behaved too. I have such pleasant memories of staying with my daughters soon after my grandchildren were born.

    I was born and grew up in a town with a large mental hospital, Sedro Woolley, WA. Being on the West Coast, it had a shorter history. Like the Northern Michigan Asylum, Washington’s Northern State Hospital emphasized work therapy. They had their own steers and dairy cows and vegetable gardens. The patients sewed and cooked and washed clothes. When I visited, it looked like they housed lots of old people who today would be in nursing homes. It closed because of new theories of care and a desire to save money.

  7. Milledgeville in GA was started in the 1800’s and was much like this facility but not in the Victorian style…It was all red-brick Georgian style. The same was true about farming, sewing and things to self-sustain the place. Interestingly, the orphanage that I lived in in Cedartown GA, the Ethel Harpst Home had the same sort of history to it. Of course, when I was there that was all history and not how things were done, but it used to be. Nowadays they want all children in foster homes…not institutional living….and the mental facilities are warehouses for drug therapy by the medical model. So sad that people aren’t vested in what works, but rather what is least expensicve. I have wonderful memories of my time in the orphanage. I tutored younger kids in reading and math…kept me out of the kitchen. 🙂

    • Some huge issues. My dad, too, spent some time in an orphanage–in Vancouver, BC. My friend is a deputy prosecutor and often runs into cases where someone commits a crime but the underlying problem is mental illness or drug use. Trying to get care for them, she runs into barriers of consent, money, and space in treatment programs. Prison is the worst option, but without any other effective treatment, all too often it’s where the person ends up.

  8. Awww Grandmother Sue. It has such a warm, reflective ring to it. Love the tour, especially the tunnels. Many plots festering in those dark confines.

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