Architecture of Bryce Hospital

In Philadelphia Dr. Lopez met Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride, superintendent of the progressive Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane, a founding member of the AMSAHI and leading authority on asylum design and construction. Dr. Kirkbride persuaded him of the advantages of his ideal asylum plan, and had his architect Samuel Sloan draw up detailed plans to take back to Tuscaloosa.

The “Kirkbride System” which had been adopted as the official and accepted standard of AMSAHI had been developed during Kirkbride’s long career as superintendent and physician-in-chief of the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane. It set forth standards for locating and designing hospitals. These hospitals would attempt to increase the individual attention paid to each patient and to the effectiveness of the hospital staff. Architect Samuel Sloan’s translation of Kirkbride’s system into the distinctive linear plan used at the Alabama Hospital for the Insane was the first fully executed hospital of its type and, in Kirkbride’s opinion, the best architectural expression of his system. It consisted of a large building with a central administrative section surmounted by a dome flanked on either side by three patient wings and cross halls en echelon.

Funds for the building were depleted and the legislature appropriated an additional $150,000 to complete the hospital. Governor John A. Winston tried to dissuade legislators from carrying on construction of the hospital because of its increased expenses. He made a “common-sense proposition” that the present building be abandoned and that “one on a scale of less architectural display and equally suited to the purpose of public charity” be constructed in another more accessible location. The legislature overrode the veto.

Civil War and Bryce Hospital