American History · Civil War

another bryce visit went well

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Students Jasmine James and Katie Carroll striking a pose in front of this antebellum structure, which will be the new home for our performing arts program.

Another visit to Bryce Hospital, a historic building on the University of Alabama’s campus, went well. That is until the end. I had a feeling we might get locked in now that the construction crews are back to work.

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Students touring Bryce.

Sure enough, after we went up to the rotunda to stand where former UA President Landon Garland and his wife, Louisa, stood, hiding from the Union soldiers, the door four stories below was locked.

Fortunately, Steve Davis, the amazing historian for this facility (my favorite on campus), called UA Facilities and someone came right over.

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Bryce Historian Steve Davis talking to students enrolled in “Antebellum America Swagger”

But I had my granola bar and bottle of water just in case it would be a while.

This was another wonderful opportunity for the students enrolled in my “Antebellum American Swagger” class to see how the city of Tuscaloosa and our campus, is a rich treasure chest filled with our complicated past.

The building is named for Peter Bryce, the first superintendent of this once state of the art facility that housed the mentally challenged initially on the eve of the Civil War. Born in South Carolina, he stayed out of sectional politics and admitted enslaved people with white patients. Dorothea Dix, a social reformer, from Maine, was one of the strong nineteenth century women we should discuss more, who played a role in the building being located here.

The structure also received the support of Alabama slaveholder Robert Jemison Jr. and later Confederate politician who partnered with Horace King, a freedman-architect, on many building projects.

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In under two weeks now, the students will begin their individual research papers, which is the capstone experience for all History majors. As I told them today, I already miss them. They are truly another great group.

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And I can’t sing Steve Davis’ praises enough either.

The state of Alabama is fortunate to have his knowledge and wonderful storytelling skills. #RollTide

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The Lord’s Prayer in Bryce Hospital chapel. I hope they save this piece of the wall during renovations.
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Student looking in the direction that Louisa Garland looked as Union soldiers attempted to burn down UA’s President’s Mansion. She reportedly left Bryce Hospital to order them to extinguish the fire.

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