Tour a Former Asylum at the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, Traverse City

Driving onto the Village of Grand Traverse Commons grounds on a sunny day should have been a tranquil experience. Massive old shade trees dappled shade across the expansive green lawns. Beyond the front lawn stood towering three-story 1880s Victorian-Italianate buildings. However, instead of tranquility, I felt a bit of eeriness. Had I not been aware that the 500 acre property was once a mental health asylum, maybe the eerie feeling wouldn’t have existed. 

Village at Grand Traverse Commons

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The asylum closed in 1989. After sitting vacant for a decade, the Minervini Group purchased the property and has been transforming the buildings into trendy condos, restaurants and boutiques. However, since so many people inquired about the property’s past, the Minervini Group began offering historic tours tours of the property.

We were unaware of the tours when we visited, so we only went into the Mercato. The Mercato is the shopping area in the basement of the three-story, quarter-mile wide, turret-topped Building 50. The shops were lovely, but it still seemed a bit eerie to see artwork hanging on the old brick and stone basement walls. When we wandered into an area of the building that wasn’t yet renovated and still had the institutional look about it, the spookiness was intensified.

Shops at Grand Traverse Commons

Art at Grand Traverse Commons

If you take the tour, you’ll see much more than the Mercato. You’ll walk through an unrenovated building to see the state of the buildings left to decay after the hospital closed. You’ll proceed to a “work-in-progress” renovation and will explore asylum’s underground tunnel system. Finally, you will see details of the renovation work in Building 50, where the Mercato is located.

Architecture of Grand Traveres CommonsThe tour guide discusses the history of mental illness in the U.S., history and architecture of the Traverse City State Hospital, and the ongoing renovation project. Since renovation is continuous, the tour changes accordingly. The tour is not a ghost tour, but a historical tour, which can be just as eerie, given the topic.

The tour of the Village at Grand Traverse Commons will definitely be on my itinerary on my next visit to Traverse City, even if I am spooked by it.

If you take the Grand Traverse Commons tour

The Village at Grand Traverse Commons is located at 830 Cottageview Drive in Traverse City, Michigan. Tours, limited to 15 people, are $25 per person. This is a historic tour, not a ghost tour. Check the web site for further details.

Accommodations

We stayed at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa in nearby Acme, Michigan, during our visit to Traverse City. Find the best hotel deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor.

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Disclosures:  My visit to Traverse City was hosted by Traverse City Tourism. However, any opinions expressed in this post are strictly mine. Parts of this article were extracted from a press release written by Mike Norton, Media Relations Manager, Traverse City Tourism.
This article contains an affiliate link, which means that if you book a room through the TripAdvisor link above, I will receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you.

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