SANFORD, FLORIDA

June 24, 2020

We know many of you are limiting travel during these uncertain times.  Although we continue to feature trips and places to visit, we are not encouraging you to visit them until it is safe.  We want to support Florida's attractions and businesses during this situation, and hope you will plan to visit them when things get better.  In the meantime, enjoy them virtually from the comfort of your home. 

Sanford sometimes gets overlooked in the sprawl of the metropolitan Orlando area, but it is a unique old town on Lake Monroe about 22 miles north of downtown Orlando. 

Paddlewheeler Barbara Lee, Sanford, FloridaPaddlewheeler Barbara Lee, Sanford, Florida

Lake Monroe is one of the wide lakes that are part of the long St Johns River system that extends all the way north to Jacksonville and the Atlantic Ocean.

The lake has always marked the upstream limit of major navigation on the St Johns. 

HISTORY OF SANFORD, FLORIDA

Steamers from Jacksonville and points north had to stop in Sanford or Enterprise on the opposite shore of Lake Monroe because the river gets too shallow as you continue upstream.

Because of its location at the head of navigation of this major river, Sanford was known in the very early days as the"Historic Waterfront Gateway City".

Vintage Postcard Sanford 1906Vintage Postcard Sanford 1906

The first residents of the area were ancient Native American tribes. After them, the Seminoles arrived in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

During the Second Seminole War (1835-1842), the Seminoles burned Palatka, a town on the St Johns River north of Sanford. The United States Army built Camp Monroe on the south shore of Lake Monroe as a defensive measure.

In 1837 the Seminoles attacked Camp Monroe and the only American casualty was Captain Charles Mellon. 

Vintage Postcard Sanford SteamerVintage Postcard Sanford Steamer

The name of the camp was changed to Fort Mellon and the town that grew up around it was known as Mellonville.

The Army built a road from the fort whose route is still in use in Sanford. It's currently known as Mellonville Avenue.

The area began to grow after the Seminole Wars when it was safe for settlers to set up homes and farms. Orange groves were planted and an orange packing plant was built in 1869.

Vintage Postcard Sanford, FloridaVintage Postcard Sanford, Florida

A year later General Henry Shelton Sanford bought more than 12,000 acres west of Mellonville and laid out a new town he called Sanford.

The first permanent residents of Sanford included many Swedes who were brought in as indentured servants and did the hard work of clearing the land and planting citrus groves.

Downtown Sanford, Florida

By 1883, Sanford annexed Mellonville and began to prosper as railroads came to town to supplement the river traffic. 

One new railroad connected Sanford to Tampa; another ran north to Jacksonville.

The town was now on the map and this was reinforced in 1883 when President Chester A. Arthur spent a week vacationing in Sanford.

Like many other Florida settlements, Sanford had its growing pains. It was almost totally destroyed by fire in 1887 and the fire was followed by a yellow fever epidemic.

Sanford MuseumSanford Museum

The crowning blow was the destruction of the citrus industry by the Great Freeze of 1894 and 1895. Farmers adapted by turning their groveland into celery farms.

The first celery was planted in 1896 and the celery crops were abundant and became the major industry in town.

When I first came to Florida in 1960, Sanford was known as "The Celery City"and retained that official nickname until 1974.

The industry is still immortalized in the names of some local streets and business establishments.

SANFORD, FLORIDA TODAY

Sanford today is a modern city with marinas and parks on a bustling waterfront and a downtown area that has been renovated and turned into a vibrant district with many shops and restaurants.

Sanford, Florida Neighborhood

Its residential neighborhoods are shaded by ancient oaks draped in Spanish Moss. Sanford has a strong sense of community and a distinctive identity in busy Central Florida.

Orlando Sanford International AirportOrlando Sanford International Airport

The old Naval Air Station from the World War Two era was converted many years ago into Sanford Airport and has since evolved into Orlando Sanford International Airport.

This airport is a major arrival and destination alternative to Orlando International Airport to the south.

Amtrak Auto TrainAmtrak Auto Train

The Amtrak auto train route also begins in Sanford where you can put your car on the train and travel north to Lorton, Virginia.

Downtown Sanford in 2006Downtown Sanford
Flickr/Jeff Muceus

Interstate 4 is on the west side of town and offers a quick jump to Orlando or Daytona Beach.

Many historic commercial buildings and homes in Sanford have been carefully preserved.

Mayfair Hotel, Sanford, FloridaMayfair Hotel, Sanford, Florida

An exception is the old Mayfair Hotel which was built in 1925 and became the Sanford Naval Academy in the 1960s and 1970s.  The building then became the home of New Tribes Mission, a missiornary group.

Now they are gone and the building is currently vacant.  It is on the south shore of Lake Monroe and is starting to show signs of deterioration.  I hope someone comes up with a way of saving it and puttng it to good use again.

Sanford Marina on Lake Monroe, St. Johns RiverSanford Marina on Lake Monroe, St. Johns River
Flickr/Daniel Piraino

The marinas along the downtown waterfront are home to many pleasure boats and also have tour boats for hire along with excursion type boats that resemble paddle wheel riverboats and will take you sightseeing or on a dinner cruise.

SANFORD, FLORIDA RECOMMENDED RESTAURANT

The Corner Cafe
101 West First Street
Sanford, Florida 32771
Tel: 407-322-3779

Corner Cafe, Sanford, Florida

Sanford's revitalized historic downtown neighborhood extends four blocks along West First Street. The Corner Cafe is in an old restored building within this neighborhood.

It has many other restaurants and cafes as neighbors, along with numerous antique and gift shops. The entire neighborhood is a delight to visit.  One of the biggest delights is having lunch or dinner at The Corner Cafe.

READ MORE ABOUT THE CORNER CAFE



INTERACTIVE GOOGLE MAP SANFORD, FLORIDA


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