The View through Harrison Brothers Tinted Windows
The Historic Huntsville Foundation received a preservation grant from the Alabama Historical Commission for $7,123, to protect and preserve the original storefront windows of Harrison Brothers Hardware.
This award is part of a $900,000 state-funded grant program appropriated by the Alabama Legislature for improvements to historic sites in Alabama. Grants were awarded to public and nonprofit entities who own and operate historic sites, reflect an education-based mission, have educational programming and reflect the diversity of the state. We are proud that Historic Huntsville Foundation received state funds to help us preserve Alabama’s oldest hardware store and one of Alabama’s oldest commercial businesses.
The storefront of Harrison Brothers Hardware dates to 1902. We believe Harrison Brother’s glass pane windows are the oldest windows on a retail store in the downtown core and among the oldest windows of a retail store in the state. This project will require the temporary removal of the eight panes of glass windows in the original storefront. The Historic Huntsville Foundation owns and operates Harrison Brothers Hardware.
Work will commence in January 2020. The store’s eight, single-paned glass windows will be temporarily removed from their frames as repairs are made to the storefront exterior. Prior to the window’s removal, we will apply a protective product to the window surfaces. The store’s window openings will be covered with sheets of plywood while the work occurs. After repairs are made and the window frames are painted, the glass panes will be put back into place. The protective film will stay on the glass panes to protect the windows in the future. We are pleased that we can use an innovative product to preserve our historic glass windows.
We expect LOTS of attention when the plywood replaces the glass panes, but the store will remain open to customers. We want to let people know what to expect and the proactive, preventative measures HHF is taking to preserve a building and business that is a touchstone of the greater Huntsville community.
In addition to a fun place where local residents shop, Harrison Brothers is also an ambassador for the state of Alabama and its history. Approximately 60,000 people visit HBH annually, of which 70 percent are tourists. Many of these tourists are international visitors, drawn from around the world by the U. S. Space and Rocket Center, U. S Space Camp, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, or Toyota and Mitsubishi automotive plants. It is quite common to walk into HBH and greet people from Japan, China, Qatar, India, or New Zealand, receiving an introduction to Huntsville history through a personal tour given by Harrison Brothers staff.
Daniel T. and James B. Harrison initially founded Harrison Brothers in 1879 on Jefferson Street as a tobacco shop. They moved their store to its current location at 124 Southside Square in 1897. In 1901, a fire destroyed many of the building on this street. The Harrisons seized this opportunity to expand the store and remodel the original, antebellum building. They purchased an additional bay (126 Southside Square), added a third floor, and remodeled the facade to its current Commercial brick facade, completed in 1902. After the death of Daniel and James, other Harrison family members stepped in and managed the store. These heirs made minimal, if any, changes to the 1902 store. Harrison heirs decided to sell the building and cease operation of the store in 1983.
Since assuming ownership in 1984, HHF has preserved the HBH building facade and the original interiors, and continued the traditions begun by the Harrison Brothers. Today, Harrison Brothers is an iconic landmark in downtown Huntsville and proof of HHF’s vibrant, community-based preservation mission.
We at the Historic Huntsville Foundation are proud to use innovative technology as part of our project, and we believe this will help us preserve a defining feature of Harrison Brothers Hardware. When the work is complete, the windows of Harrison Brothers will continue to offer historic views to the Courthouse Square for another 118 years.