December 21st, 2011
The Herald News of Alabama published an article today about the history of Christmas at Bryce Hospital: The History of Christmas Celebrations at Bryce Hospital. Although I’m sure things weren’t quite as rosy as the writer suggests, it’s an accurate series of vignettes revealing some of state hospital life’s more positive aspects. I think it’s safe to say those positive aspects came to the fore during the holiday season at every other Kirkbride hospital in the country too. I get the feeling though that earlier times were more truly festive, and things got less joyful when hospitals became severely overcrowded.
It’s too bad the article doesn’t include any pictures. It’d be nice to see some of the decorations and activities it describes.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Not to be a downer, but don’t forget there are people less fortunate than you, who won’t be spending the holidays at home this year.
November 14th, 2011
The Bryce Hospital Kirkbride will likely become home to a museum once the University of Alabama takes control of the building. You can read about it in the university’s student-run newspaper, The Crimson White: UA Releases New Campus Master Plan. Their article states:
“By terms of the purchase agreement between the Department of Mental Health and the University of Alabama, there is going to be a mental health museum located in the Bryce Hospital building,” [said Darrell Meyer of KPS Group, the architectural firm helping UA with the campus master plan]. “We realized that we don’t have a University history museum. I think we really need one of those.”
In addition to building a University history museum, Meyer also spoke of plans for museums for mental health, natural history, Jones art collection, and special collections.
It’s not very clear the way it’s written, but I’m pretty certain the mental health museum is a sure thing, and the university history and other museums are just possibilities. Hopefully though, the prospect of several museums means it’s more likely the entire building will be preserved. It’d be great to have another fully intact Kirkbride that’s accessible to the general public.
UPDATE: This article: Bryce May Become Cultural Arts Center, adds that the Kirkbride would also house spaces for the performing arts as well as for a museum or museums.
April 9th, 2010
On Sunday April 18th, there will be a special ceremony in honor of those buried in the four cemeteries at Bryce Hospital in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It will take place in the hospital’s chapel at 2PM. Directions and further information can be found in this invitation: Bryce Hospital Cemetery Memorial Dedication Ceremony (1.52MB PDF File).
While relatives of patients, former patients, friends and hospital employees are especially invited, the event is open to the public and all are welcome. Following the ceremony and a reception, there will be a tour of Bryce’s Kirkbride building.
Related to this story is a relatively new web site: Bryce Hospital – Historic Preservation Project. It’s not quite complete, but there’s already a lot of historical data contained there and it’s worth taking a good long look through it. Also included on the site is information about volunteering for or making donations to the historical preservation project.
January 4th, 2010
Just before 2009 ended, Alabama’s board of mental health approved the sale of the Bryce Hospital campus to the University of Alabama. The university will pay $60 million for the property and Bryce Hospital will move to a new location within Tuscaloosa. According to the Associated Press, UA has “indicated it will maintain the nearly 150-year-old main building, which opened in 1861. The white structure is expected to be used by the university for office space and maintained as a museum.” Read more here: Sale of Bryce Hospital to the University of Alabama Approved.
December 23rd, 2009
A few days ago, squad546 on the Asylum Projects forum told me that Independence State Hospital is now represented in Google’s Street View. I soon after went looking for other Kirkbride buildings to see if there were any other new additions since I last checked. Below are the ones I found that you can see clearly. (more…)
March 16th, 2009
Here are a few recent items in the press concerning Kirkbride buildings…
1) RTC College Sets Sights on January 2010
According to this story, the cross-cultural Chinese business school destined to take over the former Fergus Falls Kirkbride may open by early next year.
2) Renewed Efforts to Save Old Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital in Morris County
Morris County doesn’t want the Greystone Kirkbride, but they do want some of the land around it. Apparently the state government won’t have it. It’s all or nothing as far as they’re concerned.
3) UA Making Plans to Weather Storm
This article doesn’t go into much detail about the University of Alabama’s impending purchase of the Bryce Hospital campus, but it’s worth noting that the school still plans on making the acquisition in spite of the turbulent economic climate.
September 8th, 2008
Our little paper, gotten up for the benefit of the patients of the Alabama Insane Hospital and to give the patrons of the institution an insight into some details of its practical operations, is printed on quarto Novelty Press, without expense to the State—the whole labor of type-setting and putting to press being performed by the patients, or by employees of the Hospital in intervals of leisure from their regular duties…
That’s how The Meteor—a newspaper written and published by Bryce Hospital’s patients—describes itself in its inaugural issue published in 1872. The Alabama Department of Archives and History has put eleven issues of The Meteor online in PDF format (note that at the time of this writing the link for the second issue isn’t working). While not quite the juicy rag you might hope for, the paper’s articles do offer some glimpses of life at the hospital as well as into the minds of the patients.
My favorite part is from the very first issue where one patient compares Alabama’s hospital for the insane with its neighbor the state university by saying, “The inmates of the University come to acquire ideas. We to get rid of them.” (more…)
August 8th, 2008
Bryce Hospital’s chances for becoming a national historic landmark are looking much better. The University of Alabama has agreed that national landmark status won’t hinder their future plans for the hospital buildings. An application for a federal historical designation will be made, and I think it’s likely that the application will be approved. As noted here a couple weeks ago, national landmark status would do much to help the Bryce Kirkbride be preserved, so this is great news.
Someone familiar with the hospital’s history pointed out to me recently that the Kirkbride at Bryce is most likely the oldest intact Kirkbride building in existence today. In addition, Dr. Kirkbride himself stated that this particular building was the most exact embodiment of his original principles of hospital design. Those two facts alone make the building worth preserving, not to mention it’s long history as a part of Alabama and the nation.
July 18th, 2008
There’s a story on TuscaloosaNews.com about efforts to get Bryce Hospital designated a national historic landmark: Panel Urges Landmark Protection for Bryce. The application for landmark status has to be made within a month, but much like that fickle girlfriend or boyfriend we’ve all had at one time in our lives, the University of Alabama wants to keep its options open. So far it has opposed the landmark application. The school plans to purchase the Bryce Hospital property when the hospital moves in a year or so, and seems to believe that landmark status will somehow “hurt the university if it owned the building.” (more…)
April 6th, 2008
There’s a new editorial piece about Bryce Hospital and the University of Alabama on TuscaloosaNews.com: Southern Lights: Surviving on the ‘Wrong’ Side of the Tracks. Instead of focusing on the present (see Bryce Hospital in the News), this article goes deep into the history of the two institutions. There are a good amount of insights into Dr Bryce’s character and how he managed things in the early days. You get a good sense of why this hospital bears Dr. Bryce’s name, and of the multifaceted nature of an asylum superintendent’s job. The superintendent not only provided care to the hospital’s patients but also acted as a chief executive, setting policy, marketing the hospital, and keeping the institution fiscally sound among other administrative/business type tasks.
I also found this old column from the September 1, 1895 edition of the New York Times: Model Home for Insane; Features of the Alabama-Bryce Hospital in Tuscaloosa. (Click on “View Full Article” to read the whole thing in PDF format.) It was written a year after Dr. Bryce’s death and gives a more contemporary, historical overview of life at the hospital and Dr. Bryce’s influence on it.