In 1842, the U.S. Government began to encourage settlers to relocate to Florida by offering free land. Settlers came from all along the east coast, mostly Georgia, Virginia, and the Carolinas.
In 1870 Henry Sanford acquired 12,548 acres of land at the southern most navigable point of the St. John's River system to create a river port city that he dubbed "The Gate City of South Florida." In 1877, the 12,548 acre "Sanford Grant" was incorporated as the City of Sanford.
Soon after the city was incorporated, riverboats began making regular trips to the area. Citrus and vegetables were taken north to Jacksonville, and people and goods arrived in Sanford via the river. Immigrants from Germany, Italy, England, Russia, Greece, Hungary, Norway, France, and Poland soon arrived in the area to work in the citrus groves and the celery fields of Central Florida. The more affluent visited Central Florida to relax and reap the health benefits of the climate.
In 1880 the South Florida Railroad began taking passengers and frieght to and from the riverboat port of Sanford and Orlando. The City of Sanford was firmly established as a transportation hub for South Florida.
During this time the city's infrastructure was being developed. Sanford was planned and designed as a grid with numbered east-west streets and most north-south streets bearing the names of trees. Land was set aside for parks, churches, and schools. Although most business took place on the waterfront, First Street was the center of town. Residential neighborhoods developed south of downtown, away from the threat of flood and associated health problems. Sanford quickly grew during the first half of the twentieth century.
In 1942 Sanford became home to the Sanford Naval Air Station, which would later become the Orland-Sanford International Airport. By the 1950s and 60s, visitors were traveling to Sanford to see the New York Giants baseball team hold spring training, shop for antiques, and recreate on Lake Monroe. In 1976 Sanford's downtown commercial district was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The residential neighborhood south of Second Street followed in 1989.
[ Map: Sanford - The Gate City of South Florida ]
[ Photographs ]
· The City of Jacksonville steam boat made regular trips between Sanford and the city of north
· Trains like this were a common site coming into and out Sanford carrying passengers and produce
Images courtesy of Sanford Museum