Traverse City Record-Eagle


April 25, 2013

Garden Society creating new home at ex-State Hospital

TRAVERSE CITY—Karen Schmidt gave a tour of the Botanic Garden and Historic Barns Park as a cutting wind and hail whipped against her face.

Blooming daffodils and tulips weren't yet part of the show.

“If this weather keeps up, it will be three weeks for the daffodils," Schmidt said. "I might have to stick in plastic ones."

Schmidt is chair of the Botanical Garden Society of Northwest Michigan, which is creating a new home on 25 acres at the former Traverse City State Hospital.

This week the site is sprouting with workers. They are demolishing two buildings — a milk house and bus garage, both built in the 1950s — to make way for gardens.They first removed asbestos and lead paint from several buildings to prepare for the take-down.

In the cathedral barn, floor boards lean against the wall, ready to get laid down again. The boards had been removed, taken offsite and stripped of traces of DDT.

“They used to dip the cows in DDT to keep away the flies and they tracked it in,” said Kurt Schmidt, who co-hosted the tour.

Workers also were expected remove a roof from a former horse barn. The building's stone foundation will wrap around a wildflower garden to create a walled garden.

A former granary will transform into a new Visitor Center over the summer and feature exhibits, bathrooms, and a gift shop. The second floor will house a large classroom to host all things gardening — meetings, gardening classes, and school field trips.

Schmidt expects the Visitor Center to open this fall. The project recently accepted bids, which came in too high. In response, the project is getting downsized and re-bid. Once the contractor is finalized, construction will start, she said.

A pavilion is also taking shape right next to the Visitor Center. The building was slated for demolition until architect Ray Kendra noticed that cement pillars, not the building’s brick walls, held up the roof.

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