Chartered in 1803, the city of Sparta sits quietly tucked away in middle Georgia, USA. Named for the ancient Greek city-state as a tribute to the bravery of the town’s founding pioneers, the city was one of the state’s leading cotton producers and thrived throughout the 19th century and the earliest years of the 20th century. The wealth of its citizenry is evident in the Victorian and other classically styled homes that were built in and around the city. Many of these homes and other architecturally significant structures still exist today.
The arrival of the boll weevil to Georgia and the cotton crash after World War I brought an end to the city’s prosperity, and almost a century later, it is struggling to survive. The city is the county seat for Hancock County, the poorest of Georgia’s 159 counties and the 55th poorest county in the United States. The median household income in Sparta, according to a US Census Bureau survey, was $19,545 in 2009, and over 25 percent of the city’s families live below the national poverty line. Less than seven percent of the city’s population of 1,404 holds a college degree.
Despite the city’s current misfortunes, efforts are being made to preserve and restore some of the glory for which the city was once known. The Sparta-Hancock Historical Society is active and holds periodic tours of some of the area homes. In addition, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation has listed Sparta’s historic buildings on their list of Places in Peril for 2011.