The Northern Michigan Asylum is the last standing Kirkbride Asylum in the state of Michigan, built in 1855 in Traverse City Michigan. These facilities were constructed according to the style of Dr Kirkbride, to be a kinder gentler place to care for disadvantaged members of our society. It was following the work and leadership of Dorothea Dix who advocated that as a country, we could do better. The belief was that isolating the individuals, giving them a place of serenity, a day with structure and caring would provide the cure. At its opening every ward had either a piano or an organ and fresh flowers every day. After the turn of the century, philosophies changed, funding became short, leading to the dark days for the American Institutions that included extensive use of shock treatments, lobotomies, and restraints. During and following the 1950’s, modern drug therapy became more mainstream, and by the 1990’s deinstitutionalization became the watchword. The facility was permanently closed in 1989 even though the wards were full. The patients were moved to private facilities, or turned onto the streets.
The old is haunting and as in other abandoned places, as the facility decays, it takes on the character of all its past occupants. The photographs here may be considered part of the record of past and present, but are not to be construed as portraits of either the place nor the people present, who are in most ways contradictory to the settings.