The University of Alabama recently began an extensive project to renovate the former Bryce Hospital grounds. The main building of what began as the Alabama Insane Hospital will soon house the University's Theater and Dance programs.

We can't discuss the property's future, however, without mentioning its storied past. Most Tuscaloosans have at least one story about sneaking onto the property or the Jemison Center, known as "Old Bryce."

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Founded in 1861, the hospital provided treatment for mental illness. The hospital treated its patients with dignity and kindness and was known across the nation as a leader in mental health. Bryce patients even wrote and edited their own newspaper, The Meteor.

Things changed as time passed, and the conditions at the hospital deteriorated to the point that patients were so mistreated that the hospital found itself at the center of a landmark class action lawsuit that lasted over 30 years.

Ira DeMent, a judge who worked on the case, described the conditions at Bryce:

Anybody who was unwanted was put in Bryce. They had a geriatric ward where people like your and my parents and grandparents were just warehoused because their children did not care to take care of them in the outside world, and probate judges would admit them and commit them to Bryce on a phone call….They were not mentally ill. Bryce had become a mere dumping ground for socially undesireables, for severely mentally ill, profoundly mentally ill people, and for geriatrics….

There was one ward with nothing on it but old people. Beds were touching one another and they were simply warehoused. There was a cemetery in the back, but no records. Someone would die—they would merely dump them in an unmarked grave and that was the end of it and no accountability, no supervision, no investigation to determine the cause of the death—nothing.

You can read more about the history of Bryce Hospital and its (sadly) neglected cemeteries HERE.

Urbex Explorers Underground Birmingham recently shared video footage of their exclusive tour of Bryce Main. Check it out below.

It is really cool to see the amount of care going into preservation work at Bryce Main. What do you think about the project? Share your thoughts using our app chat!

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