Featured Article Of The Week
The planning for a state hospital for the mentally ill in Alabama began in 1852. The new facility was planned from the start to utilize the "moral architecture" concepts of 1850's activists Thomas Kirkbride and Dorothea Dix. Architect Samuel Sloan designed the imposing Italianate building after Kirkbride's model plan. The construction was an important source of employment in Reconstruction-era Tuscaloosa. The facility was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
Dix's reformist ideas, in particular, are credited as the driving force behind the construction of the "Alabama Insane Hospital," which was later renamed for its first superintendent, Peter Bryce, a 27-year-old psychiatric pioneer from South Carolina. His tenure was marked by absolute discipline among the staff of the hospital. He demanded that patients be given courtesy, kindness and respect at all times. The use of shackles, straitjackets and other restraints was discouraged, and finally abandoned altogether in 1882. Various work programs and other activities were encouraged, including farming, sewing, maintenance and crafts. Between 1872 and the early 1880s, some of the patients wrote and edited their own newspaper, called The Meteor. These writings provide a rare inside look at life in a progressive mental institution in the late 19th century. At that time, Bryce's management and commitment to "scientific treatments" was recognized around the country as in a class of its own. Click here for more...