Days Gone By - stories from the past

Amazing early illustrations & film of what Tuscaloosa looked like around 1887

Bryce Hospital in Tuscaloosa, Alabama was once state of the art

The Baptist Church, the most elegant structure of its kind in Tuskaloosa, was completed in 1885, and owes its origin mainly to the liberality of Miss Sallie Moody, now Mrs. D. L Purser, of Birmingham, who gave the large and now exceedingly valuable lot and contributed most liberally to the building fund.

The erection of the fine building for the Merchants National Bank and the hotel on the corner of Market and Cotton streets, as well as the new public school building, have been commenced, and will add very much to the number of modern buildings in Tuskaloosa, and assist in revolutionizing the appearance of the venerable city.

The Alabama Insane Hospital, the pride not only of Tuskaloosa, but of the State, was first endowed by the Legislature about 1855. It was a very modest institution at the beginning, but has grown to magnificent proportions. But more than in size has it grown in reputation. It was one of the first institutions of the kind in this country in which all force and physical punishment in the management of patients were abandoned and kindness of treatment instituted.

Photograph of Bryce Hospital taken in 2010 by Carol M. Highsmith – Bryce hospital has now been closed and abandoned

Bryce hospital

The patients are kept employed, and dances, billiards and theatricals contribute to their amusement. The superior administrative talent of Dr. P. Bryce, director of the institution, since its foundation has made it the best managed insane hospital in the United States, while his attainments as a physician and a specialist on mental diseases have procured for him a world-wide reputation. The patients are better housed, better fed, and better cared for than anywhere else, and the cost per capita, at the same time, is lower by about 40 per cent, than that of any similar institution. The Hospital mines its own coal, mikes its own gas, bricks, etc., and raises a large portion of its own food. Not a little of this work is done by the patients themselves.

Bryce Hospital – Forgotten Cemetery

Among other notable buildings in the city proper is the Atlanta Store. It is erected on the site of a hotel known as Washington Hall, which was burned in 1865. It was erected by Stephen Miller, and the plans were made by Col. J. T. Menifee, now president of Howard College, Marion, Ala.

The bridge across the Warrior River, built in 1835, torn down and rebuilt in 1S52. Both were covered wooden bridges, and the new bridge was burned by Croxton in April, 1S65, at the same time that the University and the iron foundry fell victims to the fury of the war. Re-erected in 1872, it was blown down by a fearful storm in July, 1878. The owners of the franchise surrendered it to the county, and an iron bridge was finished in 1882, at a cost of $40,000, which has stood the tests of storms and floods.

The crowning glory of the city, the feature which gives the Athens of Alabama its beautiful name of City of Oaks, are the rows of magnificent water oaks which line the broad streets and avenues. A glance at the illustrations of Market and Broad streets, in this pamphlet, will convince anyone that those who first planted these trees, and those who continued the work ” builded better than they knew.” The first trees were planted by private parties in 1839, and in 1842 the public, that is, the city corporation, took charge of this beneficial work and completed it to their ever-lasting glory.

Broad Street is now University Avenue


The youngest, but the most beneficial of Tuskaloosa’s schools, is the public graded school, presided over by Prof. Carleton Mitchell. The schools were established by act of Legislature in 1885, and have just completed their second year. The largest share of the credit of their establishment belongs to Hon. W. C. Jamison, the Mayor of the city, and the nearly 600 children which visited it last year are indebted to him more than anyone else for the inestimable privilege. A new building will be erected this summer, and in September the school will be able to rank, not only in excellence of system and method, which it has always done, but in regard to exterior and interior beauty and convenience, with the best of the country.

The many advantages which Tuskaloosa offers to the manufacturer, the farmer, and the lumberman, are set forth in other parts of this work. The sketch of its public institutions, its history, and its educational advantages, must show it to be a desirable place of residence. The influence of the many schools have made the community one of unusual refinement and intelligence, and the location of the city, on a high plateau, 140 feet above the level of the river, is exceptionally healthy and free from malarial influences. A climate where an inch of ice is a rarity, and where the thermometer never reaches a hundred degrees, where spring, as charming as the traditional May-morning, lasts for three months and where the fall is merely a gradual fading of the glory of summer, merging into a winter so short and mild that the new leaves commence to grow before the old ones have quite disappeared, a city every street of which is a miniature park, and where even the hottest day is tempered by a breeze — surely furnish attractions enough for even the most fastidious. We ask not that our statements be taken on trust; all we ask is, come and see, and we can assure you of a most hearty welcome.


  • The information and illustrations above are excerpts from a book written in 1887 as a prospectus for future investors in Tuscaloosa.

UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA OFFICERS 1831-1901 – This book includes the names of the officers, instructors, commandants, assistants and tutors of the University of Alabama prior to 1901. They are listed alphabetically with available genealogical, biographical notes and sources of information on their ancestry.

About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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