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 countyseat in 1866 and
is credited with suggesting naming the town after the Greek
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 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. Place your
mouse pointer on the picture to see the original structure.
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.
Source: Alleghany Chamber of Commerce / History