Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sparta Historical Society


Discover our Heritage Preserving our Past

The Van Kirk / Mull House, circa 1790, now the Sparta Historical Society History Education Center, was built by the Van Kirk Family who came to Sparta in 1775. It is located on Route 517 in Sparta next to the Sparta Middle School.

Sparta Township is located in Northwestern Sussex County, New Jersey, at the headwaters of the Wallkill River, where mining and distilling once flourished.

Founded in 1845, and rich in history, Sparta had some very famous residents and visitors including Thomas Edison, George Washington, Henry Ford and General Lafayette.

Sparta Historical Society Facts

The Sparta Historical Society was incorporated in 2002. We hold meetings 5 times per year and we welcome members!

Once the Van Kirk House was leased in 2006, the interior was cleaned, repaired and painted, the outside yard and gardens were cleared and refurbished, an herb garden and a safe walkway of pavers was installed.

A proposal to install a new septic system was approved by the County Board of Health. A Change of Use Analysis was performed by Houghton, Quarty and Warr Architects to secure a valid Certificate of Occupancy as a Historical Museum.

The neighboring townships of Ogdensburg and Jefferson formed public/private partnerships to responsibilities of maintaining their historic museums.

Sparta Historical Society Goals

To serve as a repository for local historical documents and artifacts.

To make our collection available to the general public and to scholars.

A major part of the Society’s mission is school and community outreach.

To host a variety of events fostering interests in local history, and to raise funds to carry on these efforts.

To work in partnership with community groups to restore the Sparta Train Station.

To develop, over time, a historic village, taking advantage of all four buildings to illustrate the rural, agricultural and industrial nature of Sparta’s past.

Sparta Historical Society Proposals

The Society requests the Township acquire the Van Kirk House and three adjoining buildings and provide the Society a long-term lease.

The Society will assume much of the maintenance of the House and other buildings in partnership with the Township.

Sparta Historical Society Activities and Accomplishments

The Society conducts numerous tours and open houses for the community, including Holiday tours and Civil War re-enactors’ encampments.

Working with the Sparta Women’s Club, high school students, Sussex County Community College videographers and others, the Society recorded local Veteran’s stories, which are now part of the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress.

Oral histories from more than ten Sparta senior citizens have been video recorded and are now in the Society’s collection.

Sparta Girl Scouts completed a badge project compiling Scrap Books of the Society’s photos and articles.

A Boy Scout earned his Eagle Scout Award by sorting and cataloging the extensive Eppler Collection of Sparta historical letters, pictures and other articles. A room in the Van Kirk House is dedicated to this collection.

Working with area antique dealers, decorators and others, the Society replicated a Civil War era bedroom, an 1800’s young girl’s room and several period rooms.

Over the years, the Society accommodated local students providing community service, or writing papers assigned by history teachers. They engage 6th grade history students as Docents during open houses.

A model miniature farm scene, handcrafted to scale, was donated to the Society. It is on permanent display, and housed in its own dedicated room in the Van Kirk House.

The Society is active in community events….Parades, Sparta Day, County History Days, The Fair, Library displays, the Sparta Women’s Club, Kiwanis and they work with Seniors.

Preservation of the 300+ year old oak tree near the House is significant; the society has tree experts evaluating its condition.

NJ Countryside Magazine named The Van Kirk House as a ‘Top NJ Holiday House Tour’ in 2008. Society resources were utilized in local historical publications, such as Gwen Donovan’s recent book, Images of American – Sparta.

Help Preserve Sparta’s Heritage

Those interested in the Society’s objectives are invited to become a member and participate in advancing its goals.

Opportunities exist for all in their area of interest. Committee opportunities include:

Historical Data

Finance/Ways & Means


Public Relations


Richard Karman, President 973.729.7549

Renee Ferguson, Vice President 973.729.1180

Danielle Naisby, Secretary 973.837.7317

Roberta O’Neill, Treasurer 973.729.5586