Wisconsin Historical Society

Property Record


Architecture and History Inventory
126 W MAIN ST | Property Record | Wisconsin Historical Society
Historic Name:Sparta Free Library
Other Name:Sparta City Library
Reference Number:27941
Location (Address):126 W MAIN ST
Unincorporated Community:
Quarter Section:
Quarter/Quarter Section:
Year Built:1902
Survey Date:1999
Historic Use:library
Architectural Style:Neoclassical
Structural System:
Wall Material:Brick
Architect:Schick and Roth
Other Buildings On Site:0
Demolished Date:
National/State Register Listing Name: Sparta Free Library
National Register Listing Date:9/3/1981
State Register Listing Date:1/1/1989
National Register Multiple Property Name:
Additional Information:A 'site file' exists for this property. It contains additional information such as correspondence, newspaper clippings, or historical information. It is a public record and may be viewed in person at the State Historical Society, Division of Historic Preservation.

The Sparta Free Library is Sparta's first library building and was built in 1902. Located on the northeast corner of West Main and Court Street, the Sparta Free Library is an H-shaped one-story brick building raised on a high coursed white stone foundation constructed in the Neo-Classical style. An open Palladian portico with a center arched entrance supported on short Ionic columns and with side Doric piers is reached from the east and west by a divided stair of rusticated stone. A projecting white stone cornice, unadorned frieze and architrave with corbeled mouldings along the top of the facade and portico, a white stone parapet at the top of the portico and white stone quoins on the corners of the building contrast with the dark rust colored brick elevations. In addition, white stone arcading and sills enframe the round arched windows groups both sides of the facade and on the east and west elevations. White cut-stone oculi and keystone in the arched entrance as well as white stone inscription blocks inscribed "Sparta Free Library," "1902," and "Carnegie Library" decorate the stairway, parapet and frieze areas of the portico. Windows in the basement story are rectangular, with double-hung sash. A large rectangular rust-colored brick addition constructed in 1982 extends from the rear of the original T-shaped building.

The interior of the building, displaying much of the original character, is divided only by large mahogony arches springing from panelled mahogony columns. The vestibule opens to an interior space that is lighted by a skylight and is divided from the original reading rooms and stack room by arches. The south wall features a crenelated full-length brick fireplace that is characterized by a half-mantel with a stained ceramic three-quarter bas-relief portrait of Andrew Carnegie. Original Mission styled oak lounge chairs and library tables and chairs have been maintained. A stairway on the west side provides access to the basement that originally featured an auditorium, conference room and extra library room and storage areas. The 1982 addition accomodates stacks and a children's room in the basement.

Exceptionally well preserved, the Sparta Free Library has been altered by the addition constructed in similar rust-colored brick and in a similar Classical styled design that are compatible with the original building. This large addition is attached to the rear wing of the original T-shaped building [60 feet x 30 feet main section and 49 feet x 30 feet rear wing], creating the present H-shaped building. This early turn-of-the-century library building also has received new plumbing, heating, lighting and air conditioning.

Placed in the NRHP in 1981, the Sparta Free Library was constructed by local contractor L.V. Huschka at a cost of $9,730 in 1902 according to a design created by La Crosse architects Schick and Roth. The library was funded by a $10,000 grant as well as an additional $2,000 needed to complete the building from Andrew Carnegie and by the City of Sparta, who provided the land and pledged $1,000 a year for maintenance. The name "Carnegie" was chisled into the stone on the stairway in 1904 as a memorial to their benefactor Andrew Carnegie that would "last as long as the building" at the direction of the Sparta Free Library Committee.

The Sparta Free Library is significant under Criterion C as representative of both a type and a period of construction. Similar in scale and plan to other small turn-of-the-century Carnegie libraries, the Sparta example is distinguished among similar buildings by the sophistication of its Neo-Classical form. The crisp contrast of brick walls with stone arcaded openings and quoins, and the formal projecting pavilion with Palladian portico and rusticated divided stair compose a singular piece of design. One of four early 20th century public buildings in the proposed Water Street Historic District exhibiting the influence of the Classical Revival, the exceptionally well-preserved Sparta Library, makes a substantial contribution to the historic character of the district.

As of December 1998, there were no plans to either rehabilitate or relocate the library. (D).
Bibliographic References:(A) Historic name: inscription; Date of construction: date stone. Sparta Herald, February 11, 1902; June 10, 1902; June 17, 1902; August 12, 1902; August 19, 1902; July 26, 1904. SPARTA-MONROE COUNTY DEMOCRAT "Library project begins." 7/2/1981. December 1998 phone conversation with Lisa Wold, Assistant Library Director.
Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory, State Historic Preservation Office, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin

Have Questions?

If you didn't find the record you were looking for, or have other questions about historic preservation, please email us and we can help:

If you have an update, correction, or addition to a record, please include this in your message:

  • AHI number
  • Information to be added or changed
  • Source information

Note: When providing a historical fact, such as the story of a historic event or the name of an architect, be sure to list your sources. We will only create or update a property record if we can verify a submission is factual and accurate.

How to Cite

For the purposes of a bibliography entry or footnote, follow this model:

Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory Citation
Wisconsin Historical Society, Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory, "Historic Name", "Town", "County", "State", "Reference Number".