Days Gone By - stories from the past

Amazing early illustrations & film of what Tuscaloosa, Alabama 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.



  1. Thanks for sharing this! Both sets of my grandparents grew up and lived in Northport/Tuscaloosa. Both my parents were born and raised there. I remember all of these buildings.

  2. I believe that a phrase should read “…..COL J. T. Murfee, President of Howard College in Marion, ALabama…..”

  3. […] More old pictures & film of old Tuscaloosa, Alabama – […]

  4. I didn’t see any illustrations. I saw a lot of photos of gravestones. Also, what’s with the lead story above the photo talking about a Baptist Church. When you open the link, it shows photos of tombstones. Very confusing.

    1. I’m sorry about the confusion. You have to click on the story link to see the illustrations. Facebook only shows the video….not the whole story.

      1. It says that Bryce Hospital is now closed and abandoned. NOT TRUE! The original building is owned by the University of Alabama and is being renovated. Bryce Hospital is still in operation at our new facility on University Blvd. just east of DCH on the grounds of the old Partlow State School.

    2. I didn’t have the problem you’ve described. I simply touched the image and the entire article, with video and illustrations, appeared. The only photos I saw, before opening the videos, were of the illustrations. The article that came up when I touched the image was about early Tuscaloosa, which included facts about the church, Bryce, what is now University Blvd., etc. I hope you were able to get your link to work correctly because it is an enjoyable article. Thank you, Alabama Pioneers, for the posting.

  5. Must have been a mix up in the film.

  6. My grandfather was in this hospital . How can I get information on him ?

  7. Very interesting article. Thank you for sharing.

  8. We visited Bryce a few weeks ago. I had a great uncle that was in and out of Bryce for 2 decades.

  9. All mistreatment of patients was abandoned! That would be funny if it weren’t so sadly untrue. Wonder what using ice water treatments, fire hoses and electric shock “therapy” should be called if not mistreatment? The ground should be sowed with salt!

  10. My grandfather spent several years there, glad I was too young to remember☹️

  11. I have a great, great grandfather buried there. I wonder where I would find the records and the unmarked grave.

  12. I have a great, great grandfather buried there. I wonder where I would find the records and the unmarked grave.

  13. It’s a beautiful building despite its reputation and should not be neglected. It could be turned into condos or apartments and the exterior maintained.