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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.