The Origins Of The Historic Water Front Gateway City (Sanford, FL)
1837-1868 (The Pre-Henry Sanford Era)
The quiet town nestled on the southern shore of Lake Monroe was known pre-1837 for being home to the Mayaca or Jorroro Indian tribes. These early tribes were decimated by diseases that the first European settlers brought with them. In 1837 the US army built Ft. Melon (which still stands today) during the second Seminole war. Interestingly Before the fort was established it was an Army garrison that was destroyed and the sole American casualty Captain Charles Mellon was the namesake for Ft. Mellon. Once the Ft. was established the personnel that came moved into Mellonville a newly established town surrounding Ft. Mellon.
1869 (Henry Sanford Searching For Investments)
Henry Sanford and his wife Gertrude were navigating the st. johns via steamboat looking for land to purchase as an investment. Mr. Sanford whose family made a fortune manufacturing brass had money to spend and that he did when he stumbled upon a 12,000+ acre parcel of land that would soon be known as the city of Sanford. Mr. Sanford already had visions of turning Sanford into a transportation hub and predicted the booming citrus industry to this day he is known as the godfather of the Florida citrus industry.
1870-1886 (Sanford Growing Into A Major Transportation Hub)
Mr. Sanford upon first landing in Sanford had the vision of turning this new piece of land he found into a transportation hub. He felt Sanford had a unique advantage since it was on the southern shore of Lake Monroe which is part of the very important St. Johns waterway. His thought is that Sanford could be the gateway to South Florida acting as a stop along the way to the ocean in Jacksonville. His visions came to fruition quickly the plans were finished by 1880 by 1884 Sanford was a booming town with railroad stations, a large hotel, and a massively growing produce industry. This is also the same time that the port in Lake Monroe started to become one of the leading produce shipping hubs in the entire united states.
1887 (The Fire On First St.)
At the beginning of 1887, a bakery on the first street in what is now downtown Sanford caught on fire. Almost every building on the first street was made of wood so the fire burned fast and destroyed almost every building on the first street. There was a voluntary firefighting force that tried to stop the fire but they could do little by the time they all arrived at the fire. All the buildings on the first street were rebuilt with brick. And still, to this day most buildings in downtown Sanford use the original brick that the buildings were constructed with.
1894-95 (The Winter That Almost Bankrupted Sanford)
The winter of 1894-95 was a notorious cold winter and the coldest since Henry Sanford landed on the shores of Lake Monroe. The freezing temperatures took a massive blow on the citrus industry destroying a vast majority of the citrus trees. Many Sanford citizens were bankrupted and forced to leave to try to find better opportunities in another place. However, had they known what was in store only a few years later they would have stuck it out.
1913 (Seminole County Created)
April 25th, 1913 was a big day in Sanford's history this is when the city was selected to be the county chair for the newly created Seminole county.
1896- 1940 (The Rise Of The "Celery City")
The residents of Sanford that stayed after the harsh winters of 1894-95 realized they needed to make changes so they built artesian wells and developed sub-irrigation systems. These advancements are credited with Sanford becoming one of the largest vegetable shipping centers in the United States from around 1896-1940. Sanford was not just a place to grow citrus trees the climate also allowed for celery to thrive and actually became the number one cash crop out of Sanford. This is around the time that the city was given the nickname "the celery city". The city really leaned into this characterization even to the point that the local high school changed its nickname to the "celery feds".
1941 (Frost-Free South Florida)
Around the beginning of the '40s, the agriculture industry in Sanford and all over central Florida took a massive hit. This can be attributed almost solely to the fact that businessmen and farmers realized it was far more cost-effective to grow the crops in South Florida since it was generally frost-free.
1942-46, 1950-1968 (Naval Air Station Sanford)
Right at the start of 1942, the united states Navy established the Naval Air Station Sanford. From 1942 till the beginning of 1946 the base was home to about 360 officers and 1500 enlisted men. This helped boost Sanford's local economy since it drove locals to join the Navy and brought in outside people who had to live and shop in the area. The base was shut down in the middle of 1946 along with a number of other bases located in the United States. Four years later in 1950, it was reestablished to help the United States' efforts in the Korean war. At its height, during the Korean war, the base was home to a little over 4000 military personnel.
1968-1994 (Naval Air Station Sanford Shut Down)
Due to the increased cost of the Vietnam war President Lyndon Johnson shut down the Naval Air Station Sanford. This was a massive blow to Sanford's local economy as the over 4000 military personnel were re-stationed to other places. In 1969 the airfield was conveyed to the City Of Sanford using a quitclaim deed. And it was promptly renamed "Sanford Airport".
1995-Present (Orlando Sanford International Airport Is Open For Business)
After changing names from "Sanford Airport" to a few other options the city ended up landing on calling it the Orlando Sanford International Airport. Its first commercial flight commenced in 1995 and continues to act as a major vein for tourists to come to visit Central Florida. Sanford has continued to grow and has shared in the growth of central Florida.