One of our favourite places in Sparta – Sparta House Tearoom and Restaurant
Sparta House as it looked about 100 years ago.
I just love the town of Sparta, Ontario. In fact, I love it so much that when we went looking for a new house, we looked at a couple there. I soooo want to live there! It didn’t work out at the time but I haven’t lost hope that someday I’ll be a Sparta resident!
Sparta House serves a traditional British menu. As is often the case, Sam had the Chicken and Vegetable Pot Pie and I had the Ploughman’s Lunch. For dessert, cream tea – YUM www.spartahouse.com
Sparta began to be settled by Quakers during the War of 1812. During the War of Independence, many Quakers from the Niagara Region in New York and from Pennsylvania had come to Canada to settle. They had been suffering persecution in the United States because of their conscientious objector status and refusal to take sides during the war. Jonathan Doan and his family were among the first to explore and settle the area. Doan built a tannery and had others build a grist mill on the creek that went through his land.
Sparta House was built in the 1840s by David Mills in the American Colonial style. At this time it was a hotel and since that time has also been the town’s first library, a general store, a furniture store, a funeral parlour, a hardware store, a barbershop, a pub, and now a tearoom. It was purchased in 1992 by Ken and Norma Roberts. Norma began collecting teapots to display in the tearoom and to date, has over 350 of them.
Sparta House is said to house a ghost and has been featured on the TV show Rescue Mediums. http://www.spartahouse.com/spooky-sparta.html
The settlement, known as The Corners, was established in 1822 and grew quite steadily with Quakers and other settlers buying land and setting up businesses. It was a popular area for many Methodists to settle in as well.
In 1834, the name of the town was officially changed to Sparta, named both after the Greek city and after a town named Sparta in the U.S. from which several of the settlers had come. Sparta continued to grow into quite a prosperous town until the 1870s. At that time, two railroad lines were constructed, passing through nearby St. Thomas and most businesses relocated to be closer to the railroad. Sparta shrunk in size shortly after to reflect the size that it is today. The town still boasts 28 buildings that date to pre-Confederation times.
Above left: The studio of local artist Peter Robson (originally from England) http://artistsandtheirart.com/PagesArtists/Robson.htm
Above: A lovely little shop of home and garden goods and gift items. This building is known as Temperance House. It was built in the 1840s by Mr. Hitchcock and served as the Sparta Hotel. It later became Elgin House and then Ontario House and was the busiest hotel in the area until its bar was closed by a Temperance group (hence its most recent name). It has been an ice cream parlour, a dance hall, apartments, and most recently, shops. It’s currently known as Beyond the Garden Gate.
Above left: Anything Used, the home of Sparta Candles, owned by Patrick and Mary Muscat. http://www.spartacandles.com/index.php Just as people come from all over to visit the tearoom and nearby Winter Wheat http://cynchronicity.wordpress.com/2010/08/26/winter-wheat-and-the-art-of-lucy-ogletree/ , the Sparta candle store/Anything Used is a place that draws visitors from all over. They have the nicest candles I’ve ever found, gift items, and second hand flea market and antique treasures. This building was originally Eakin’s General Store, the back brick section being built prior to 1846 and the front portion being added as a general store and post office in 1846.
Above right: You can see Eakin’s General Store as it looked around 1910.
I tried to find a reference for the population of Sparta but found some very different numbers! One said that the population is about 200 people, another said that according to the census in 2006, it was around 12,000 people and another had to be very very confused as it said the population was well over 11 million!!! Personally, I would say that walking through the town of Sparta, the number 200 feels the closest but likely once you add in the outlying rural/farm areas, it could go up to the 12,000 number (that sure seems high to me though!). I guarantee the 11 million number is a HUGE mistake!
If you live in or are visiting the area on October 2, 2010, Sparta will be taking part in Doors Open Ontario. Doors Open is an initiative that promotes Ontario heritage by opening up historic sites to the public free of charge. Some of these sites are ones that aren’t normally open to the public at all. For example, some of the buildings taking part in Doors Open in Sparta are actually private residences. http://www.doorsopenontario.on.ca/userfiles/HTML/nts_1_11289_1.html