Munson Manor History


The History of Munson Manor

The beautifully restored structure that serves as Munson Manor Hospitality House traces its roots back to 1885. James Decker Munson, MD, arrived in Traverse City that year to open the Northern Michigan Asylum, the third mental institution established in Michigan.

During the next 20 years, the state-owned campus grew to include a dozen residential cottages, two infirmaries, a dairy farm, greenhouses, gardens, and multiple structures to support up to 3,000 patients.

Dr. Munson is still remembered today for his humane approach to the treatment of mental illness and his philosophy that “beauty is therapy.” He believed that peaceful, tranquil surroundings were a tonic to sooth a troubled mind.

Building 27 Opened in 1903 as Women’s Cottage

The structure that houses Munson Manor was built in 1903 and served as a women’s residence. It also served ambulatory patients in extended mental health treatment programs.

Building 27 was home to 87 women. The two main floors included patient rooms, day rooms, a communal shower room and a communal toilet room. A small portion of the basement was used for lounges. Patients dined in the adjoining Building 39, which no longer exists.

In 1969, the Department of Mental Health commissioned a physical plant inventory of the state

hospital. Building upgrades were recommended to comply with modern building codes, fire, and barrier-free regulations. The inventory also recommended that the bed count be reduced to 47. The building was removed from service shortly thereafter. The entire state hospital campus closed in 1989. Munson Medical Center purchased two cottages for future use – Building 27 and Building 29 next door, now used for offices.

A Major Renovation

After standing vacant for nearly 30 years, fundraising efforts were launched to renovate the 31,444-square-foot structure for use as a hospitality house. The community donated more than $3.5 million for the renovation, including $500,000 from Munson Medical Center Volunteers. Total cost of the project was $4.3 million.

The building’s exterior was restored to its original appearance as much as possible, including porches on the north and south ends. Modern insulated glass windows were specifically constructed with customized mullions to preserve the look of the divided lights in the original windows. New shingles were selected to simulate the original slate roof.

While the original building had communal bathrooms, during the renovation every other patient room was converted into a private bathroom for each guest room.

A modern heating and cooling system is fed by an underground system of pipes from Munson Medical Center’s power plant. This is exactly how it was done when the state hospital power plant supplied steam to the cottages. New heating units, hidden in the basement or above the bathrooms, provide individual temperature control in every room.

A modern electrical system is served by a substation, located just north of Building 29. The building is fed underground, just as it was when tunnels connected it to the state hospital’s main power plant. During renovation, interior plaster walls were routed out to accommodate an electrical conduit system. The building is fully protected by a fire suppression system, a modern fire alarm system, and an emergency egress lighting system.

Munson Manor Hospitality House opened on Nov. 15, 2000.

Munson Manor Today

Since 2000, Munson Manor Hospitality House has served more than 56,000 guests from 25 northern Michigan counties, adjacent states, and Canada.

Thirty guest rooms with 41 beds can accommodate up to 58 guests. Each guest room has a private bathroom with shower. Guests are welcome to make themselves at home and use the large kitchen facilities added during the renovation.

The lovely, 12-foot-wide corridors on both guest room floors are the original size and configuration, as are the corridor doorframes and transoms. Guest room doors were replaced during the renovation but duplicate the original five-panel design. The maple flooring on the second floor is original.

Contact Us

If you would like to take a tour and learn how you can help support Munson Manor’s mission, call 231-935-2301 or email