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Sparta restored

Medford’s venerable Sparta Building, with its distinctive fluted columns, has gained statewide recognition.

Restore Oregon recently presented the DeMuro Award to the 1911 building located at the northeast corner of Riverside Avenue and East Main Street. The is the first time in the three-year history of the DeMuro Award that a Medford building was nominated.

“I never had anybody nominate one of my designs for that kind of award,” said local historian George Kramer, who was a consultant on the Sparta restoration project.

He said the late Frank Serean, a local mason who laid the pavers in Vogel Plaza, toiled for months to get the fluted columns just right.

“He was a true craftsman in every sense of the word,” Kramer said.

Serean’s solution to forming the flutes in the columns was to cut 1-1/2 inch plastic pipe in half and push it into the stucco.

“He did beautiful work on those columns,” Kramer said.

Medford planner Carla Paladino recommended the Sparta building for the award.

The Medford Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission presented a 2013 historic preservation award to Portland developer Carl Coffman, who owns the Sparta.

Coffman said he credits the city of Medford with getting the most recent award, and he specifically mentioned Paladino.

“She gets the award for filing for the award,” he said.

Coffman said he has rented out all 10 spaces on the second story of the building but has yet to find a tenant for the downstairs.

“The first floor is tough in general,” he said.

He said he’s working on a plan to create two entrances in the downstairs in case a tenant only wanted a portion of the space.

The second entrance would be located along Riverside Avenue.

Peggy Moretti, executive director of Restore Oregon, said seven buildings throughout Oregon received the award this year.

“This is the first one ever nominated in Medford,” Moretti said.

The decision to give the award is based on various factors, including the difficulty of restoration and the impact the project has on the local community.

“It certainly struck us that being right there on the corner of your Main Street had a big impact on your downtown,” Moretti said.

She said that many historic buildings that have been restored have been a big draw for tech-related businesses.

Restore Oregon is a nonprofit organization that provides strategies for historic preservation. Restore Oregon has an “endangered places” list that draws attention to older buildings that have fallen into some disrepair and are in need of restoration. The Oregon Caves Chateau is on that list, though there is an ongoing effort to get the building restored.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @reporterdm.

The late Frank Serean, a local mason, toiled for months to get the Sparta's fluted columns just right. Photo courtesy George Kramer
Restore Oregon recently presented the DeMuro Award to Medford's 1911 Sparta Building, located at the northeast corner of Riverside Avenue and East Main Street. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell