Historic Columbus City Hall - Charles Sparrell


The 19th-Century Columbus architect who made so many Columbus buildings still in use, and enjoyed, to this day.


When most people think of Columbus, Indiana, they think of modern architecture, but Columbus also has a proud architectural heritage dating back to the late 1800s in the works found throughout the city by Charles Franklin Sparrell (see photos, below).

Sparrel was the most influential architect in Columbus during the 1880s and 1890s, yet little is known about his personal life, other than that he arrived on the scene in Columbus around 1881. He was born in Boston in 1852, and attended a technical institute in Massachusetts, though it is not known if his studies were in the field of architecture.

He also is believed to have worked for Samuel Hege & Company lumber company as a shop foreman in 1882. Yet by 1890, Sparrell had designed not only the original Crump Theater, but also the Methodist church and numerous personal residences. By this time, he could advertise himself as an architect, and did so by claiming “school, church, opera house plans a specialty.” He had offices listed at 330, 332, and 334 Fifth Street (currently the site of Irwin Conference Center), and had employees working for him.

Several of Mr. Sparrell’s surviving buildings are of Victorian Romanesque style. Among these are:

  • Columbus City Hall (now legal offices and apartments)
  • Maple Grove/Garfield School (now BCSC Admin. Bldg.)
  • McKinley School (now McKinley Apartments)

Other noted public downtown buildings designed by Mr. Sparrell are:

  • First United Methodist Church
  • Washington School
  • U.S. Post Office (now Viewpoint Books)
  • The Fehring Block
  • The International Order of Odd Fellows Building (now condominiums)

Personal residences were also designed by Charles Sparrell. Known homes designed by Mr. Sparrell, and still in use today, are at:

  • Prall house : 5th & Lafayette
  • F.T. Crump house : 1022 Washington
  • Arthur Overstreet house : 11th & Washington Streets
  • William Ruddick house : 1210 16th Street (Ruddick-Nugent House Bed & Breakfast)

Charles Sparrell left his mark on Columbus during approximately 20 years that he called it his home. He left Columbus sometime around 1900. After that time, his life remains somewhat of a mystery. He died in Newport, Kentucky in 1934, at the age of 82. His death certificate states that he was a pattern maker and draftsman, and that is about all that is known of this man who left us with so many grand structures in Columbus.

Ruddick-Nugent House
1210 16th Street

Fehring Block
520 Washington Street

First United Methodist Church
618 8th Street

The Crump Theatre
425 Third Street

J. Will Prall House
605 Fifth Street

Odd Fellows Hall
601 Washington

McKinley School
1198 17th Street

Old City Hall
445 Fifth Street

Overstreet House
(Joe Willy’s Burger Bar)
1034 Washington Street

Garfield School (formerly Maple Grove School)
(BSCS Headquarters)
17th St. and Home Ave.

U.S. Post Office
(Viewpoint Books)
548 Washington Street

Crump House
1008 Washington Street
(date unknown)

This photo of Sparrell is believed to have come from The Republic newspaper, and taken around 1895.