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Visit Alleghany County, drive the Blue Ridge Parkway and enjoy the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains.
Sparta North Carolina is located at the crossroads of the county's two main corridors -- US 21 and NC 18 -- Sparta NC is the physical center as well as the focus of community life for Alleghany County. Like many southern towns, the Courthouse is the center of town. The old central business district recalls the charm of the town's early history. Two shopping centers speak more to recent growth.
Sparta is home to Alleghany High School, Sparta Elementary School -- the largest of three elementary schools in the county -- the satellite campus of Wilkes Community College, Alleghany Memorial Hospital and four of the county's largest manufacturers.
The town also features one of the most complete public parks for a community of its size, Crouse Park. The property was the home of R. Floyd and Crystal Crouse and left to the town in honor of Mr. Crouse's parents, Floyd and Ellen Gambill Crouse.
R. Floyd Crouse (1892-1969) was Sparta's first mayor following incorporation in 1925. A graduate of the University of North Carolina and the Harvard Law School, he was was one of the community's most prominent lawyers during the middle of the 20th century and a champion of conservation causes.
The park features a basketball and volleyball court, horseshoes and exercise and play equipment for all ages from toddlers through adults. There are two covered picnic pavilions. It is encircled by a paved walking course. And the Course home is available for public functions.
Sparta is governed by a five-member elected council and mayor. The town manager handles day-to-day concerns. The town office is located at 304 South Main Street.
Alleghany County was created from land carved out of what was primarily Ashe County in 1859. James H. Parks was an early businessman whose store stood near the present location of the ABC store. He was one of three men who donated land for the county seat in 1866 and is credited with suggesting naming the town after the Greek city-state.
The present Courthouse was constructed in 1910 and is listed in the National Register of historic buildings. Noteworthy businesses include: The Alleghany News, which traces its history to The Alleghany Star, established in 1889 by A.S. Carson.
The Bank of Sparta was established in 1902 and merged with three other banks to form Northwestern Bank in 1937 under the leadership of Sparta businessman Edwin Duncan. It grew to be a major financial institution in northwestern North Carolina until it was bought by First Union in the late 1980s. Like many southern communities, the Sparta NC Courthouse occupies the town's center. Today's Courthouse is modeled after the original 1909 structure that burned in the 1933 fire. Little more than the columns and foundation remained.
During the early part of the 20th Century, the Alleghany countryside was dotted with small farms and Saturday would see farm families pour into Sparta to visit and trade. One of the prominent stores of that time was N.B. Smithey's store, the large rock building next to the town office built in 1936. Smithey had built a number of such stores in communities in the northwest mountains, forerunners of the modern department store. Smithey's sold clothing, household goods, groceries and even sported a cafe. The Smithey's chain closed in the 1990s with the death of Mr. Smithey's son-in-law who had inherited the business.
Another prominent store of the time was Farmer's Hardware, located across from the Courthouse. Opened in 1936, R. Amos Wagoner, Sr. bought into the business in 1937 and it remains in the Wagoner family today. It has the longest history in Sparta of operating out of the same location and under the same ownership.
In the latter half of the 20th Century, small farms were consolidated into larger operations and much of the employment moved to manufacturing. The county's oldest manufacturer, Sparta Industries, began as D&P Pipe works in 1943, and produces Dr. Grabow pipes. The county's largest employer, Bristol Compressors, opened in Sparta in 1994. Other large manufacturers in Sparta include NAPCO and Magnolia Manufacturing.
The town's first shopping center, Trojan Village, was opened in 1977 by developer D.W. Miles. Another shopping center, Sparta Plaza was opened in 1986 by Ken Richardson.
Fire has played a critical role in the town's development. In January, 1933, a fire that began in Ray's Lunch Room (presently Sparta Restaurant), burned half the buildings on the block, jumped the street and destroyed businesses and much of the Courthouse before it was brought under control.
The fire left little more than a shell where the Courthouse stood. It was rebuilt, but being that this was the depression, the newer structure lacked some of the grandeur of its predecessor.
The town had little in the way of a fire department and dynamite was one of the tools used to bring the fire under control. This event prompted the establishment of the Sparta Fire Department.
Shortly after midnight, Jan. 28, 1986, a traveler stopped in a convenience store to report smoke was pouring from Sparta Restaurant. Fire departments from Alleghany and surrounding communities battled until early morning in temperatures as low as minus nine degrees Fahrenheit to bring the town's second worst fire under control. Four downtown businesses were destroyed, but the fire was contained to that city block.
Determined not to be done in, the fire prompted a renewal of that portion of town. The area was rebuilt and Sparta Restaurant continues to operate from the same location.
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