Shortly before 11 p.m. on Sept. 22, 1964, someone exploded as many as four sticks of dynamite outside the Anniston Hardware Company building on Noble Street.
The blast was retaliation against the company’s then-owner, H. Miller Sproull, a white man who was central to many desegregation efforts in Anniston, according to a press release Wednesday from the Alabama Historical Commission.
The commission’s press release Wednesday was to announce that the National Park Service in November approved a federal rehabilitation tax credit for the building’s current owners.
Braxton Harris, president of real estate firm LaGarde Holdings Inc., and his business partner Jack Wallach purchased the building at 1118 Noble St. in 2013 and spent nearly $250,000 restoring the two-story, 107-year-old structure.
Alexander’s at Noble Shops is leasing the building and operates the company’s formalwear rental and year-round Christmas store there.
Harris said the 20 percent tax credit will allow him to rebate some of the cost of the building’s renovation, which includes removal of metal siding that revealed the former company’s painted signage denoting the Anniston Hardware Company.
Harris said it’s been rumored that Ku Klux Klan members were responsible for the bombing, although news accounts do not show any arrests made in connection with the case.
In his 2003 book “Beyond the Burning Bus,” Phil Noble wrote that Sproull, the city’s finance commissioner and owner of Anniston Hardware, took a leadership role in appointing the bi-racial Human Relations Council in Anniston. The council was formed just days after racial tension in Anniston exploded in gunfire when white men blasted shotguns in black neighborhoods.
The blast to Sproull’s building also came a year after Sproull helped two black Anniston ministers — the Rev. William McClain and the Rev. G.E. Smitherman — integrate Anniston’s Carnegie Library. One day prior McClain and the Rev. Nimrod Q. Reynolds were beaten by a white mob while trying to desegregate the library.
A Sept. 23, 1964, article in The Star notes that demolition experts from Fort McClellan were asked to help investigate the blast to Sproull's building, which destroyed a drainpipe and cracked a wall.
Harris said the building’s historical place in the civil rights movement will help preserve it for future generations.The building resides in Anniston's downtown historic district, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.