This week as part of my Sparta, Ga project I completed my Youtube video on the city. Sparta is the County Seat of Hancock County and was once a very prosperous and thriving little city. Founded in 1795 Sparta became a large part of Georgia’s cotton industry. The building shown above was originally the Sparta Cotton Warehouse which sat along the all important rail line, but with the arrival of the boll weevil in the 1920s the cotton industry was decimated. The building was later bought in the 1950s and turned into the Sparta Furniture Manufacturing Company. The new company made table and furniture legs for decades under various owners until the last parent company, Florida Furniture Industries closed the doors on March 11, 2001. The loss of the factory was devastating to the community as they were the largest non-governmental employer in the city.
Before the closing, Sparta’s main street which is Broad Street had a total of 37 small businesses up and down both sides of the street. With the factory gone, the people of Sparta were forced to move to other cities to find gainful employment. More and more residents left into the mid-2000s until theeconomy was so depressed that most of the small businesses ended up closing and the nine that still remain, many are only open a few days a week.
One of the recent bright spots in Sparta’s future is that in 2002 Robert and Suzanne Currey, owners of Currey & Company decided to buy an 1840s home in Sparta and started renovating it. Robert was looking for something to do in his retirement and he decided to start an organic garden in this back yard, which has grown to multiple property lots in the Sparta City limits. Thus Elm Street Gardens was born. Additionally, the Currey’s also bought the old Sparta Furniture building which sits across the street from their new home and together with Jonathan Tescher they created Sparta Imperial Mushroom Company. The building had been gutted by people stealing everything that could be scrapped in the building, but the Currey’s have restored the interior of the building and added some indoor greenhouses and now the company sells Shiitake Mushrooms to local Atlanta restaurants and Farmer’s Markets. I don’t want to take too much from the story of the recent good news, so I will share the links to Sparta Mushroom and an episode of Growing a Greener World that was filmed in Sparta and tells more about the Currey’s and their work to try and revive Sparta and create a new sense go community. I am also including the link to the Youtube video I filmed about Sparta.