There are many interesting historic features that can be found while freely wandering about or touring the former Traverse City State Hospital properties. To discover one of them, you’ll have to pop into the visitor’s center gift shop at the Botanic Gardens at Historic Barns Park.
Tucked in the back of the shop is an approximately 50-foot long brick tunnel. It connects the store to the subterranean cellar once used to store root vegetables grown on the hospital’s farmland. Workers would back wagons to the tunnel, load the vehicles with vegetables from the root cellar, and then transport the produce to the hospital kitchens.
The tunnel entrance from the gift shop has been adorned with a handcrafted metal gate that depicts the site’s former agricultural use. Look closely, and you’ll spot wheat shafts representing the past and flowers representing the grounds’ reincarnation as a botanical garden.
Portions of the tunnel are adorned with gift items for sale, while at the far end is the entrance into the root cellar. Access to the tunnel is available when the gift shop is open, and the staff is often pleased to open the entrance to the root cellar or to give an informative tour of the entire site.
Know Before You Go
Gift shop hours are posted on the Botanic Gardens at Historic Barns Park website. Tours are also available.