Now You Know: The underground tunnels of The Village at Grand Traverse Commons

The old Traverse City State Hospital was established in 1885.

By 1989 successful drug therapies, changes in mental healthcare philosophy, decline of institutionalization and funding cuts forced the hospital to close its doors.

In 2000, The Minervini Group LLC started renovating the historic buildings into what is now known as The Village at Grand Traverse Commons.

The floor of The Commons is the only thing separating workers and visitors from stepping 127 years back into history.

Raymond Minervini of The Minervini Group gave me a sneak peek into some of the tunnels and what they were used for.

â??It had a multi-purpose function, this tunnel, and so it was one of the first things built, as you would imagine, on this campus because itâ??s underground and below everything else,â?? Minervini said. â??You can see the limestone foundation here.â??

When they were first constructed over one century ago, underground tunnels connected every building on the hospital campus.

One of the buildings that has yet to be renovated still has remnants of an old passenger tunnel used by hospital staff to navigate through the buildings.

â??There was a huge turnover of staff here, so lots of people coming and working on nursing and medical rotations,â?? Minervini said. â??Not everyone was here long enough to fully learn every hallway.â??

Minervini said the tunnels were filled with steam and water pipes and electrical conduits that carried heat, hot water, and electricity throughout all the buildings.

â??Every 10 feet there were these brackets that held up all these pipes and you can still see some of the anchor points,â?? Minervini said.

Some tunnels were also used as air shafts to transport fresh air throughout the hospital.

The spires on top were actually ventilation chimneys, and so that hot air would exhaust through those spires to cool the building,â?? Minervini said.

Nowadays, some of the tunnels are used to run data cables and hold fire suppression pumps.

Minervini said they may use the tunnels to age cheese and champagne in the future.

â??This is literally the way the Romans used to build tunnels with the big arch way and the round bottom, and itâ??s still here 127 years later,â?? Minervini said.

The Minervini Group is currently developing paid guided tours of the historic site for this fall.

For more information as it becomes available, visit The Village at Grand Traverse Commons website: